Courthouse relic signed, dated exactly 41 years before tornado

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Iowa City man Bruce Christensen recovered a relic from his past which, until the July 19 tornado, had been hidden inside the very top of the Marshall County Courthouse. That same part of the building was ripped off in the storm, revealing the plank of wood Christensen had written on as he finished his work as an electrician. The etched caption read: "Electrician, Bruce Christensen, 7/19/77."

Over four decades after working as an electrician on the top of the Marshall County Courthouse, Iowa City man Bruce Christensen recovered a relic from his work on which he had etched a small message: “Electrician, Bruce Christensen, 7/19/77.”

Christensen notched those words exactly 41 years before the July 19 tornado would rip through downtown Marshalltown and blow down the very part of the courthouse he worked so hard on.

“I don’t know how many times I watched it on the TV after the tornado,” he said, referencing videos of the tornado blowing the top of the courthouse off on July 19.

Between 1975-1977, Christensen had been one of many crew members working on the courthouse renovation. His job was to help make sure the lights turned on and other electrical functions worked. He said he etched the note after completing a piece of the work.

“I did it right after I put the four lights on the steeple … I decided I better put my name up there for a day like today,” Christensen said. “It was my courthouse, I enjoyed it.”

He said he still lived in Iowa City back then, but spent considerable time in Marshalltown as he worked on the courthouse. Christensen said he stayed only blocks away from the downtown area.

After the storm hit, he said he wanted to come to Marshalltown immediately but was hindered by health issues. Besides, Christensen said, it was much harder to get into and navigate Marshalltown right after the storm.

As the courthouse remains a work in progress for construction crews, flanked by cranes and chunks of the building that had fallen to the ground, Christensen said he hopes to see it return to its full glory.

“I want to come back up and look at it … I want to make another trip up here,” he said. “It’s a great place, and I loved working there, I know that.”


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com


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