What’s Going on With the Haas College Center Clock Tower?

The Muhlenberg skyline hasn’t looked the same since the middle of the summer. Here’s why scaffolding has encased the iconic tower.

By: Meghan Kita  Friday, September 15, 2017 00:12 PM

News Image
The Haas College Center Clock Tower as seen from the roof of Ettinger Hall during the Fall '17 semester. Photo by Meghan Kita

Knowing what time it is on campus got a little more difficult this summer, when scaffolding began to go up on the Haas College Center Clock Tower. Renovations are in full swing now and are expected to be complete by the end of November. If you’re missing the tower’s chiming, it may help to know why it had to stop:

What was wrong with the tower?
There were cracks in the tower’s limestone piers (left), which were hiding under a layer of dirt. Workers noticed the cracks during a power washing a couple years ago, and Muhlenberg employed a team of engineers to determine what caused the damage.

So, what caused the damage?
The tower, which was completed in 1926, was feeling the effects of decades of wind. The force caused cracks to form in the limestone that protects the tower’s steel interior structure. The building was always structurally sound.

If the building is structurally sound, why bother fixing it?
Water could seep through the limestone cracks and damage the underlying steel, which is currently in good shape.

Well, wind is still going to hit the tower—won’t this just happen again?
The original masonry was rigid; the repaired tower will be able to move slightly with the wind, preventing future cracking. Workers will be installing joints in the piers for this purpose.

Okay, but we’re talking about an historic building here. Is it going to look the same when it’s all finished?
A historic preservation consultant and conservationists were part of the team that evaluated damage to the tower and created plans to repair it in a historically sensitive way. The main difference between the tower as it was and the tower after repairs will be its ability to withstand the elements.

It took months to erect the scaffolding—are the workers doing anything else while they’re up there?
They are: Plans call for repairs to the dome and its gutters, to the brick joints in the tower’s middle levels, and to the terra cotta finial (right) at the top of the tower.

Once this is over, how long can we expect to enjoy a scaffolding-free tower?
These repairs should keep the tower in good shape for the next 25 years. So hang in there, and maybe start wearing a watch in the meantime.



Want to read more coverage on the Haas Clocktower repair? Be sure to check out the home-page story on the latest issue of The Muhlenberg Weekly.