Founders dedicates rebuilt clock tower

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Timepiece a reminder of Lancaster’s textile roots

By Chris Sardelli

Jim Williams had one word for the restored Lancaster Plant clock tower at a dedication ceremony Friday – fantastic.


“It’s just fantastic and beyond my expectations,” he said.

The clock tower, which originally stood at Springs Industries’ Lancaster Plant, was dismantled when the historic mill closed in 2003 after more than a century in operation.

The Lancaster Plant, one of the first of the company that would evolve into Springs Global, was once considered the largest textile mill in the world under one roof.

A year after the mill was razed, Williams, a Van Wyck craftsman, offered to restore portions of the clock for the city of Lancaster free of charge.

Springs donated the clock to the city, which had considered restoring the clock tower somewhere downtown.

On Friday, Williams saw the finished product at the site of Founders Federal Credit Union’s new corporate center.

The 40-foot clock tower, which stands at Plantation and Gillsbrook roads, incorporates the original clock mechanism and 4,000 of the original tower bricks.

Williams spent more than 600 hours restoring the clock’s face and brass gears and locating missing parts.

He also worked with Perception Builders on the connections inside the clock, as well as placement of glass inserts and other clock parts.

Williams was honored to be part of the process.

“This is my second-greatest honor, while the first honor was walking down the aisle with my wife, Christine,” Williams said.

Williams was one of about two dozen people on hand for the tower’s private dedication ceremony Friday.

Joining him were several Founders Federal representatives, including credit union President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Brumfield, and elected officials, including Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw, Lancaster County Council Chairman Fred Thomas and state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, R-District 16.  

As construction equipment rumbled in the background, Brumfield thanked the people who helped make the project a reality, including city and county officials and the builders.

He was especially grateful for all the hours of service Williams committed to the project.

“This clock tower wouldn’t be here if not for all the work he’s done,” Brumfield said.

Brumfield also thanked Anne Springs Close and her family for everything they’ve done for Lancaster County.

Close is the granddaughter of Col. Leroy Springs, founder of Springs Cotton Mills, and the daughter of Col. Elliott White Springs, who ran the business for many years until his death in 1959.

“If not for the Close family, we would not be located on this spot,” Brumfield said.

Close, who still remembers the siren blaring at the Lancaster Plant, said the tower will help remind the county of an important part of its history.

“This will always be here to remind us of our beginnings,” Close said. “We thank everyone for doing this in such a first-class way.”

Brumfield took a few minutes to show the crowd where the original bricks were placed in the tower.

“We’ve tried to replicate it as close as possible to the way it was at the old plant,” Brumfield said. “It’s so important to have the bricks from the past because it’s a constant reminder for every employee that steps foot on this campus that this is a textile credit union.”

Founders was established in 1951 as a credit union for Springs’ employees. Its membership expanded over the decades, and it’s now one of the nation’s largest credit unions.

The rebuilding of the clock tower has been in the works for about four years.

Although the plan was originally to reconstruct the tower in downtown Lancaster, there were questions about how the project would be funded.

When Founders officials announced plans to build a new corporate center for its headquarters, officials also said they would rebuild the clock tower.

Perception Builders began the project in January.

Chad Catledge, owner of the company, said although the tower features the original clock face, it contains a new electronic clock system.

He said the tower project, completely paid for by Founders, cost about $300,000.

HQ Construction still on schedule

Brumfield said work on the new Founders corporate center is on schedule and work could be completed by summer 2010.

“This whole campus is like a jigsaw puzzle, where you start with the corner piece,” he said. “The tower is the corner piece. And now we’re moving on.”

Brumfield is pleased with the progress made on the 110,000-square-foot headquarters. If everything goes smoothly, it’s possible Founders could begin moving its operations into the building by May 2010.

“It will take months to transition, though,” Brumfield said. “But we’re really, really excited.”

The three-story headquarters, along with a lake and adjacent building, will be located on a 30-acre parcel of land.

There also will be an 8,000-square-foot operations support center built adjacent to the main center and an amphitheater for company events.

Brumfield said the campus has plenty of room for future developments of a community center or further office space.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416