City Hall History
City Hall TodayToday, City Hall is the location of the mayor's office and houses a variety of Athens-Clarke County government offices. A courtroom chamber on the second floor currently serves for evening meetings of the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission.
In 1997, City Hall debuted as the first in the ongoing series of holiday ornaments to commemorate Athens-Clarke County landmarks. The ornament is available for $10 at the Athens Welcome Center, located at 280 East Dougherty Street. You can contact the Athens Welcome Center at 706-353-1820. In 2007, the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation awarded Athens-Clarke County Central Services' Facilities Management Division and Chief Carpenter Bill Carter the 2007 Outstanding Renovation award for the City Hall Clock Tower.
Renovations & ModificationsSince its completion in 1904, it has undergone numerous renovation and modification efforts. City Hall is on a cyclical repair schedule, but the landmark clock tower had not undergone major renovation for well over 30 years. Chipping paint, deteriorated seals, and rotting wood were just a few of the problems caused by the constant battering of the elements on the clock tower. A few repairs had been undertaken in the early 1990s, but most of the materials had already weathered and rotted through from intense sun, rain, and wind. Rainwater was leaking through holes in the roof and around the base of the weathervane, rotting the entire structure from the inside out.
An assessment provided by an architectural firm estimated the renovation project to cost $2.5 million, but Facilities Management Division Administrator Robert Baird and a skilled construction team of Facilities Management employees under Chief Craftsman Carter decided to take on the project themselves. Extensive efforts necessary for this project included custom carpentry work, structural repairs, copper roof patching and gutter replacement, numerous ornamental repairs, and a thorough restoration of the copper eagle weathervane soaring over Athens.
Before any repair work could take place, the structural integrity of the tower and surrounding roof area had to be assessed and secured for a large scaffold system to be installed. Due to the intensity of the project, Baird sought to make the repairs endure by utilizing quality craftsmanship and durable building materials such as heart of pine wood from the floors of the old Athens Flea Market building built in the 1930s and heavy gauge copper. Almost every piece of woodwork in the tower had to be custom milled offsite and transported for replacement.
The repair efforts from start to finish took almost a year with a great deal of pre-planning. The actual renovation began in spring 2006. Custom scaffolding allowed craftsmen to mend the detailed historic ornamentation and balustrade on the exterior of the building. Rigorous measures were taken to weatherproof the tower and prevent future water damage. The clock tower now also has a fresh coat of paint and a new drainage system.
One of the most visible components in need of repair was the weathervane. A call from a citizen and a closer look with the scaffolding in place showed the eagle was leaning and barely hanging by one rusted strut. Over time, the eagle had been degraded by paint, roofing tar, caulking, and even internal corrosion from 10 bullet holes riddled into its body after an attempt to deal with the roosting pigeon problem in the late 1960s.
After an intensive search for a metal worker capable of such detailed and unique repairs, Stan Strickland, a retired architectural blacksmith, was commissioned to restore the eagle. The eagle’s restoration took over three weeks of painstaking work and it now sits proudly displaying its copper body and a custom rain shield protecting its base.
Putting in long hours and personal dedication to renovate the clock tower, Baird and his team feel privileged to be the ones who repaired the tower and thoroughly enjoyed working on such a rare and unique project. "I've had tons of comments on it," Baird says. "It turned out as well as I hoped for and was more fun than I had expected. It really involved a lot of true craftsmanship."