It’s hard to believe the clock tower building that looms over Main Street in Ferndale was once a 1920s craftsman home. Today the structure is a sprawling, multi-story sight to behold.
Each exterior wall is coated in a different siding material, highlighted with maroon trim and scattered windows, all beneath a series of jutting rooftops. Its most prominent feature is the brick-lined clock tower that sprouts from the original front porch on the building’s north side, capped by a green spire and an American flag. You really have to see it to believe it.
The transformation is the product of seven years of work — still ongoing — by owners Art and Margaret Rojsza. The Rojszas, both contractors, purchased the home in 2002, and began remodeling as a hobby. It started with little things, like kitchen cabinets and drywall. Before long, their hobby turned into something more.
“It’s an art project, really, other-wise we wouldn’t have to do this. As contractors, we could have vinyl siding over this in a week a long time ago,” Art Rojsza said.
As Ferndale residents are aware, the project has been in the works for nearly a decade. Since its inception, the building has been the center of legal controversies involving the city, and construction has been halted multiple times.
The couple began work in 2010, raising the original home up a story to strengthen and extend the concrete foundation beneath. From there, the Rojszas added an addition to the back of the home and began creating the clock tower, keeping much of the original structure intact.
Many of the building materials were acquired from the couple’s contracting jobs, and Rojsza is eager to share the stories of each piece.
Copper from the Snohomish County Courthouse lines a short roof on the west side of the building. The bricks that cover the clock tower, which is close to completion, are reclaimed from the old Birchwood Elementary school. Even the flag atop the spire has a story — it once flew over the USCGS Mellon, a Coast Guard cutter based out of Seattle.
The Rojszas found other materials, like the panel siding on the side of the building, at second-hand stores in Bellingham.
“We are very frequent fliers of the RE Store,” Rojsza said.
Four painted clocks temporarily hang at the top of the tower while the Rojszas work on other parts of the building. The clocks show 10:04, referring to the exact moment that Marty McFly, in his DeLorean, travels to the future in the 1985 film “Back to the Future.” The couple chose to reference this movie because of a character who shouts, “Save the clock tower!” — a line the Rojszas have echoed through legal conflicts surrounding the building.
Today, Rojsza thinks the project is finally in the clear, although he’s hesitant to say so until the building is completely finished. There is one message, however, he can share without hesitation.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.