Downtown Dallas has a clock with a view

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DALLAS (AP) - David Guzman swiftly climbed the stairs leading to the inside of the clock tower at the Old Red Courthouse in downtown Dallas.

As the building’s operations and creative director, Guzman had made the trek many times before. He ducked under winding air ducts and went up the nearly 90-degree stairs with little hesitation.

“I’m the only one who wants to go up here,” he told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/THyHf6). “It’s kind of an obstacle course just getting to the clock.”

Sometimes, Guzman comes up to monitor leaks in the roof when it rains. Other times, he has brought up county officials who wanted to tour the tower. For the most part, though, “There’s really no reason for anybody to come up here.”

The large clock at the top of the former Dallas County courthouse - which now houses the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture - runs on its own, wound electrically by two auto-winding mechanisms for the time and the bell.

Guzman is one of the few people who have seen the inner workings of the clock. From the fourth floor, it takes a hike up three more levels to reach it, which includes crouching through the maze of dusty air ducts in the building’s attic and climbing up several narrow sets of stairs.

All of it has been built in the past decade with the restoration of the clock tower. County officials had taken down the original tower in 1919 after determining that it was structurally unstable, leaving a stubby top in its place for most of the century.

Until then, the clock, which has four faces, played a major role in city life.

“Probably many people set their watches to this clock. Or, if they didn’t have watches, they used it to know the time,” said Kerry Adams, the museum’s curator and exhibits director.

The 123-foot tower was rebuilt and finished in 2007, marking the completed renovation and reopening of the building.

Guzman has worked at the museum since it opened. One day last week, he unlocked a door that led to an open-air level with a 360-degree view. The clock’s bell hangs from the center of the ceiling. It chimes on the hour.

When the original tower was torn down, its 4,500-pound bell had been cut into pieces. Its replacement was built to be as accurate as possible - although few records of the original exist.

Guzman walked up a winding metal staircase and opened a door at the top. Light streamed into the small room from the clock’s glass dials. From up close, their hands appeared to wobble in the wind that came with the high elevation.

At the center of the room, a green and gold contraption - called a movement - controlled the dials, its gears and levers clicking and spinning with each second. It was a relic of the past, an original E. Howard clock from Boston, Model No. 3 gravity escapement.

Chuck Roeser, a historical tower and street clock restoration specialist in upstate New York, restored the clock with a colleague.

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