Centuries-old haunted clock restored | NevadaAppeal.com
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Centuries-old haunted clock restored

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Horologist Thomas Bartels winds up the 275-year-old grandfather clock for the first time on Wednesday at the Governor's Mansion. Bartels restored the George Fowler Grandfather clock to working order.
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Thomas J. Bartels was able to repair and restore a 275-year-old grandfather clock in the Governor’s Mansion. Time will tell if the repairs have any effect on the ghost rumored to be lurking inside.

Bartels, of Gardnerville, was contacted by Helen Wiemer, mansion coordinator, to assess the 275-year-old George Fowler grandfather clock, and, if possible, repair and restore it. And that’s just what he did.

“… on the front is intricate Chinese work,” Wiemer said. “He removed the finish and here was this beautiful work.”

The motif of Japanese-style art was applied by putting a layer of plaster of paris to create three-dimensional images of the figures in the scenes. The plaster was followed by coats of primer paint, which is blue in the Fowler clock, then gold leafed and painted with transparent colors and then varnished.

Bartels restored damaged artwork by regluing every joint in the case and adding glue blocks where necessary. He said some of the wood trim and base was destroyed by infestation and dry rot.

Bartels is a Fellow for the National Association of Watch and Coin Collectors. There are about 200,000 members, and Bartels is one of only 60 members who are a Silver Star Fellow.

Nevada’s first lady Dawn Gibbons expressed her appreciation for Bartels donating his time to complete the restoration, and will present him with a certificate at the mansion.

“The clock is in operable condition – although the strike was disabled at the request of the mansion staff – and keeps good time,” Bartels said of the clock, which had not worked for many years.

Wiemer, who worked nearly eight years with the Millers and four years with the Guinns, has heard her share of “noises” at the mansion, including the doors of the clock opening and slamming shut.

“People see a woman in a white gown or dress, walking around the mansion. Sometimes the doors of the clock will come open without a wind or anything.

“One day I put the lights on and went on the outside balcony, and there was nothing there but a piece of very old cloth, old and yellow. And of all things, an old rusty jar lid with it.

“But the door to the clock opens regularly, then slams shut. It’s really strange.”

Bartels said those accounts should be written down.

“It is not difficult to believe such stories arose over the years about the clock, which, being over 275 years old has developed some idiosyncrasies in its operation that might lead to such conjecture.”

• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at rcosta-landers@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.