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Clock tower's untimely end

August 09, 2007

All the articles the Daily Pilot and other publications have had over the years never talked about tearing down the Newport Harbor High School clock tower until recently.

It is nice to see they are reporting on something that I have raised issue with for some time.

Over the past several years and two ballot initiatives that issued public works bonds of nearly $500 million and ran on a theme "Save the Tower," residents and alumni were tricked into thinking their beloved clock tower was safe. After all, it is a nautical point of reference and local landmark.

Now, as the story unfolds, the school district and developers say it is too costly to save the tower.

Instead, they want to build a replica in its place. Well, I did not vote for a replica. I want the real thing.

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Still further, I would like to know where the bell will go and where all the student and staff memorial plaques from inside Robins Hall's Memorial Garden will be placed. I would like to know what the Newport Harbor High School insignia-etched architecture will be replaced with or for that matter where the flagpole that has been prayed upon through war, tragedy, crisis and praise will be.

No one will give me a straight answer from the school district or the developer, and I fear they will all be dumped, just as they are dumping on our community, history and heritage.

Speaking of which, no one from Newport Mesa Unified School District or Newport Harbor High School can confirm to me that Heritage Hall's artifacts went into storage. All they tell me is that the school library's paintings that are worth in excess of $500,000 are safely in a district storage unit, but they allude to little else.

Everyone seems to be so content to toss out one's history in the pursuit of progress. Surely, the tower needed to be seismically secured. It is old; I understand that. That is why I along with others voted to save it. Now, I just feel duped.

And while some think that imploding the high school's most cherished and iconic symbol is making way for the future, all I can say is that sometimes the past is more important.

The developer I imagine will build a great replica, with all the faux architecture in place. I trust that the new building will be equipped with state-of-the-art innovations for our local high school students. Who knows, students may be able to return to the highest point of the clock tower to take their senior portraits as they once did years ago. But no matter how well the original structure is cloned, it will never be the same.

On Thursday morning, it will truly be a very sad day to be a Sailor.

TED STELLE,

Costa Mesa

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