Highland’s historic bell tower is now in place at City Hall, after a four-year project to renovate, restore and move the tower back to the vicinity of its first home.
The bell tower was originally installed on the first Highland City Hall in 1884, composed of wood frame from four reclaimed wood posts, according to Jacob Rose, president of the Highland Historical Society. It stood as part of City Hall for 100 years, until the old City Hall was demolished and the current one was built.
The bell tower was relocated to Kaeser Park, but suffered vandalism and deterioration over the years.
“The bell tower had suffered numerous instances of vandalism that included spray painting and use of a pellet gun,” Rose said. “These recurring instances galvanized the Historical Society to begin searching for a new home for the bell tower so that it could be better appreciated by the public.”
The Historical Society opted to donate the tower to the City of Highland and allow relocation to the current City Hall, which is also undergoing extensive renovations.
The tower is one of the oldest structures in town and the solid cast-iron bell is 150 years old, weighing 900 pounds. The restoration includes the original 1800s structure and the exterior siding added in the early 1900s.
During the restoration, Jonathan Pierce of Boy Scout Troop 8040 constructed a bench and garden planter boxes at the base of the tower for an Eagle Scout project, which will be maintained by city workers. Rose said Jonathan and the Scouts did “a wonderful job.
“We are very proud of Jonathan and wish him great success as he finishes pursuing the rank of Eagle Scout,” Rose said.
The project had a few “unforeseen events,” Rose said, with additional structural issues that had to be addressed in order to move it. The project included many volunteers, including students from Highland and Triad school districts, members of the Historical Society, the Boy Scouts, volunteers for the move, city employees and many more. Rose gave special thanks to the late Clem Koehnemann, who advised on aspects of the tower’s history. Donations came from a number of local organizations, including local Knights of Columbus, American Legion and VFW chapters as well as DigitalArtz.
But for Rose, it’s the culmination of a project that started more than four years ago, in conversation with former city manager Mark Latham and the late Mayor Joe Michaelis in 2019. He said he and the rest of the historical society are very pleased to see the tower finally relocated and restored adjacent to its historic home.
Although the tower has been relocated, there is still some restoration work to be done, including refinishing the soffit around the perimeter of the bell tower, placement of new crown molding on the north side, and reconstruction of the pole and finial.