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After years of neglect, Elmira’s city hall clock tower gets $3.5 million facelift

Workers construct scaffolding around the clock tower at City Hall in Elmira.
Natalie Abruzzo
Workers construct scaffolding around the clock tower at City Hall in Elmira.

A $3.5 million-restoration project is underway in downtown Elmira, as the city recently began the much-needed repairs to the clock tower at city hall. It's getting restored after many years of being out of commission.

The century-old structure that sits atop the city building was surrounded by scaffolding as workers prepared to begin construction.

Rachel Dworkin, archivist for the Chemung County Historical Society, said the costly repairs could have been avoided if officials kept up with the building's infrastructure throughout the years.

“The question becomes, are we willing to let city hall go the way of the armory?” Dworkin asked. “Are we willing to let it deteriorate until it becomes a hazard to the people who work there, the people who are driving and walking past it? Because if we don't do the repairs now, we're going to be paying for the demolition and then a new building.”

For more than a century, the armory stood next to city hall. After years of neglect and disrepair, it began crumbling onto the sidewalk and roadway. It was demolished in 2010.

It is not clear when the clock stopped working.

According to Kyle Sullivan, the director of Buildings and Grounds for Elmira, in 2016, the city noticed the clock was not keeping time and weed growth had caused brick and mortar issues that allowed water to leak into the building.

It sat awaiting repair for years due to funding issues.

In August, the city council approved the funding necessary to restore the clock tower and get it back to working condition.

“We wanted to see what we could do to secure the most money we could from grant funding and any other kind of funding we could find, in order to handle a project to this capacity,” Sullivan said. “The $3.5 million price tag is a—it's a high price tag. It is.”

Sullivan said $2.9 million is from federal COVID-relief funding, while $600,000 is from a state grant.

No additional major repairs are scheduled. However, the rest of city hall will receive an acid wash cleaning.

The project is scheduled to be completed by June 2024.