After a brief ceremony inside Minneapolis City Hall, the clock atop the building’s 345-foot central tower was lit up and its bells chimed just after 8 p.m. Monday, nine months after restoration began on the century-old timepiece.
The $2 million restoration, paid for by the city and Hennepin County, returned the clock to its original state by replacing its four ceramic faces and neon-lit hands with frosted, backlit glass.
“When you think about these projects, we all think about new things,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. “We are living up to our responsibility to restore this clock.”
Workers installed energy-efficient LED lighting to illuminate the four clock faces from behind. It will be the “beacon” in downtown Minneapolis and Hennepin County, McLaughlin said.
Patrick Lemmon and Nikki Lee, who work downtown, joined the small crowd gathered across 4th Street from City Hall for the celebration.
“I remember when I first started working downtown and I was always so lost, I just remember the clock tower was always a place to find where you are and associate things with it, as well as the sound,” Lemmon said.
The project began in August and was expected to be completed in November. But cold, windy weather and the discovery of unexpected damage — including cracks in the clock tower’s north side — caused delays.
City Hall, designed by local architects Frederick Long and Frederick Kees, was built between 1889 and 1906 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The clock, which measures 24 feet, 4 inches in diameter, is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. It originally was made of glass panels and had copper hands.
Ceramic faces and stainless steel hands were installed in 1949 after cracks were discovered in the original glass.
After the ceramic faces were dismantled in the restoration, pieces were donated to more than 200 local artists.
City Council President Barb Johnson said the renovation will get it “back to the original” appearance.
Just as the hands hit 8:10 p.m., the clock illuminated for the first time with its new face as the tower’s carillon sounded the melody from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”