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City Council goes back in time for art choice

The Hendersonville City Council's worldwide search for public art ended not with a bang but a tick tock.

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The council since last fall has struggled with what sort of public art to add as the crowning touch to the last of three downtown makeovers and the northern gateway to historic Main Street. The council authorized and budgeted money for two downtown sculptures — $70,000 for a fountain on the First Citizens Plaza and $40,000 for an unspecified sculpture at the Umi corner.
After an advisory committee recommended the artists, the Council agreed on the fountain but it delayed action on a 24-foot soaring metal sculpture on the next block. The artist withdrew when the council demanded changes to the piece.
The council in its Jan. 3 meeting landed on a safe and functional option after dealing for weeks with abstract and colorful proposals from around the globe. The council directed Main Street director Lew Holloway to explore the idea of a clock tower. It would not be the first clock in a prominent location downtown. The 1921 Neoclassical Revival Citizens Bank building, designed by Erle Stillwell, features a copper-topped McClintock clock that was added in 1927. It doesn't work today.
"I think it should definitely look historic," Councilman Ron Stephens. "You're going into Historic Downtown Hendersonville."
Councilman Jerry Smith gave a facetious blessing "if the bell tower will be the Chapel Hill bell tower."
Since the $1.6 million infrastructure work in the 600-700 blocks of North Main Street is already under way, the council is on a fast track to approve a clock.
Holloway is working now on the council's direction "to pursue the design and installation of a 'clock-slash-bell tower'," he said. "Exactly what it'll look like is in the design phase now. I'm doing research at this point on clock towers."
A design subcommittee of the Main Street advisory board will look at the design and Holloway will coordinate plans with the project contractor and landscape architect before reporting back to the council. He said that based on the landscape architect's 6X6-foot footprint, the clock tower would be 12 to 15 tall or maybe a little taller, Holloway said. The piece is planned as "an architectural element," not a metal clock on a pedestal.
"To me that means some combination of stone — they mentioned curbstone — and brick," he said. It would have a roof of copper or some other metal. Contractor Todd Trace told Holloway and city engineers he could build the clock tower if the city wanted him to.