The famed Gem City-Callahan clock tower once seen by thousands of motorists will rise again above Interstate 75, although from a different vantage point this time.
Dayton History this week announced a $500,000 gift from the Dayton-based Robert Brethen Foundation to “lift the historic Callahan Clock into the air and return this well-known landmark to Dayton’s skyline.”
The money will go toward building not only a new tower for the clock, but a working railway station serving a rail line at the 65-acre Carillon Park. The tower is expected to stand around 100 feet in the air.
Brady Kress, president and chief executive of Dayton History, said the organization’s Carillon Park home has had the clock top — once with working clocks on four sides — since 2006.
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The new tower will be found at the western edge of Carillon Park, providing a view of the interstate and the Great Miami River.
The plan is to make it “interactive and interpretive,” allowing visitors to walk stairs to a viewing platform above the park, encountering educational panels,” the organization added.
“It’s to make this interactive, something they (visitors) can play with while they’re here,” Kress said. “What we’re calling for is for this thing to be raised high above Carillon Park and to allow people to climb up the tower, to allow people to come up underneath the clock.”
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If all goes well, a detailed plan will be ready in coming weeks, and the new tower could be raised by early next year — but there is no definite timeline at this point, Kress cautioned.
A plan for the architectural remnant has been on Dayton History’s radar since at least 2015.
The rail line — with a “Western boarding station” — is supposed to be an integral part of the plan. The line will go around the park’s historic areas. Much smaller tracks run by volunteers have long been in place at the park’s western end, but these planned lines will be much larger, Kress said.
“Everybody can get on in any time of the year and ride around the park,” he said.
Roll & Associates, Inc., along with Woolpert, are finalizing architectural and structural engineering designs, as Dayton History seeks additional funding and construction proposals for the overall project.
The first building the former clock was on dates back to the late 1800s. The clock was first placed on the Callahan office building, which later became the Gem City Savings building in downtown Dayton, where the PNC building stands today at Third and Main streets.
“When this clock was set on top of it, it really set it (the building) apart from other buildings downtown,” Kress said.
In 1978, the clock was moved to a Reynolds and Reynolds building in West Dayton near I-75. The city of Dayton asked Dayton History to take the clock in 2006 when that building was razed.