Odd Fellows Clock Tower repairs returning Main Street landmark to glory

January 04, 2012
Santa Paula News

The Odd Fellows Lodge Clock Tower has been wrapped in scaffolding and its clock faces are now just empty holes, but the former Noble Grand told those attending the December Good Morning Santa Paula that improvements will soon be completed.

“Everybody’s seen the scaffolding going up,” said Carlos Juarez of the East Main Street landmark, and “I notice less and less people have wristwatches on... they use cellphones to tell the time. How many of you drive up Main Street and looked to see what time it is and noticed the missing clock faces?”

The Odd Fellows have been a presence in Santa Paula since 1884, when the fraternal organization met in Cleveland Hall until it burned down in the great fire of 1903. “That’s when the city went from having a bucket brigade” to an organized volunteer fire department, Juarez noted.

When the Odd Fellows built the lodge, the community wanted a clock tower and donated for same. “It was an afterthought that rose from the ashes of the great tower; since then it’s become one of Santa Paula’s best known landmarks.”

And one that over the years has required much work: “One of our biggest obstacles was when we did the seismic retrofit.” There were numerous leaks that had damaged the structure, and some remained after the work. About four years ago the lodge started its annual Holiday Train display, and “Last year it actually started raining on the trains,” showing how severe the leaks had become.

The “first obstacle was raising the money... the Odd Fellows are very frugal” and did have a building fund, but one that fell short of actual needs. Then there was the issue of getting permitting and making some changes - such as using vintage replica tiles that are slightly larger - to the historic structure that further delayed the work. And of course, as with all constuction projects, as the building was being stripped “we found hidden costs” to replace wood in the actual tower holding the clock mechanism and the clock faces.

Odd Fellow and clock master Paul Skeels is redoing the clock faces and gears, and “One thing he was adament about was not using glass,” but instead a mixture of materials that will offer better protection from the elements and sunlight. The dome will be the final portion of the project to be tackled with completion hoped for in January, at which time there will be gala open house.

In the interim visitors have been flocking to the train display, this year bigger and better in its new location on the ground floor of the building. “This year decided to charge admission,” a low cost way to enjoy the fabulous setup and help fund the renovations.

Juarez said that soon the “bells will chime again on the hour.... They didn’t work for a long time, and when they did we did get some complaints” from people who said they could not sleep, although the sound has always been hushed. 

The Clock Tower has been a rich copperish color since it was a star of the film version of “Leave It to Beaver” in the 1990s. Juarez said Odd Fellows “debated whether or not to return to the original silver, but we decided to keep it copper” because of the sheen of high visibility that is “much more impressive.”





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