The city of Biddeford, Maine, has won a major historic preservation grant to help restore the clock tower atop City Hall.
"It's the iconic piece of the Biddeford landscape," said Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant.
The clock tower dates back to the 1890s when its big bell served as an alarm for mill workers starting and ending their shifts. But over the course of time, the tower began to crumble and the clock mechanics corroded causing the clock to no longer work.
"Nobody bothered to repair it," said Casavant.
City leaders decided it was time to get the clock ticking again.
The Heart of Biddeford, a downtown revitalization group, entered a nationwide contest to win grant money. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected 20 projects and opened it up for voting online. Biddeford was one of the smaller communities in the contest, up against big cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and Nashville.
"I thought, 'Gee, Biddeford is really small can we do that?' But as the weeks went by we were maintaining second or third place, and I was enthusiastically optimistic," said Casavant.
The Heart of Biddeford commissioned a slick promotional video and put out a push on social media to get votes. The effort to preserve Biddeford's past helped city government get into modern day communications — inspiring them to launch a Facebook page and promote the voting contest.
Delilah Poupore, Director for the Heart of Biddeford, said they found out Monday that their clock restoration campaign received more than 85,000 and finished in third place. Their prize is $150,000.
"I think there was a lot of local love," said Poupore. "What was more iconic then our City Hall Clock tower? It says to everybody here’s were the downtown is, here’s where we are welcome."
The money will help the city pay for the first phase of repairs — getting the hands on the clock operating again. The deadline to use the grant money is June 2020.
Casavant said completely updating the entire tower is a project that could cost millions of dollars. He hopes the grant money will be a catalyst to get more fundraising underway.