Restoring the 1911 Seth Thomas Clock from the New Bern, NC City Hall tower

1911 Seth Thomas Clock from the New Bern City Hall tower. A group of volunteers have been restoring this fine tower clock since 2007. Dobert Owsley and other clock enthusiasts are from the regional chapter of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.

Tower Clock in New Bern, NC
Tower Clock in New Bern, NC

They will reach a milestone this Monday morning, when their 2,800-pound prize work is moved from its worksite at the Broad Street fire station to its permanent home inside the great hall of the new $60 million N.C. History and Education Center on the South Front Street waterfront.

Its in the spirit of the 300th that we are doing all of this, Owsley said. Its been a real community project and a lot of other people have helped.

He estimates the clockwork group has put in more than 1,200 volunteer hours on restoration at the Firemans Museum and later at the fire station.

The total money spent is about $1,100, he said, which included $500 from the Firemans Museum through efforts by Alderman Sabrina Bengel.

City records show the Seth Thomas clock was built and installed in 1911. It operated inside the New Bern Post Office and Customs tower from 1911 to 1999.

The clock was decommissioned in 1999 because of ongoing mechanical problems and long repair times. An electrical/digital system now controls the clock faces and bell.

The four-sided City Hall clock continues to tick, having been run by electric-driven motors since 1999. The volunteers spent two weekends dismantling and removing the clock from high in the city hall tower. Buckets of pieces were lowered by hand to the main floor through the building’s winding staircase, and ropes and pulleys handled larger pieces, with heavy lifting by five city employees.
Working a few hours each Saturday, the volunteers diagnosed the clocks needs, repainted it with the original green and black colors, cleaned it, reworked motors and replaced and rebuilt gear boxes and linkage, and fashioned a new temporary dial.

The permanent cast iron clock pendulum will be more than eight feet long, and weigh 325 pounds. A shorter one was installed for tests and the clock was up and running by mid-summer of 2009.

The restoration volunteers include Owsley, Michael Hattem, Glenn Irving, Fred Swartout, Kenneth Johnston, Robert Weeks, Sid Weiner, Francis Murphy, Edward Grey and Yvonne Johnston.
In its permanent home, it will be the first thing visitors see when they enter and look up. There will be an inside three-foot dial, and also a metal outside clock face. The goals is to have the dials completed by July in time for the fall opening of the history center.

A lot of us are like myself, youve always been busy someplace else doing things, and you reach a point where you say I want to do something for the community, he said. Thats where it comes from. And, the folks Ive worked with on this, they just love clocks.

It will be a lasting gift.

It will be running there for a long, long time, he said. Its all in the spirit of the celebration. All the nice things the get-togethers and picnics will all go away. But the clock will still be there.

One Comment

  1. Grandfather Clocks
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    Update: 05-13-2010

    The New Bern Tower Clock restoration project in preparation for the 300th
    Anniversary year of New Bern, North Carolina, the colonial capital of the state.

    There will be special 300th Events that give
    you the opportunity to relive some of our greatest moments and commemorate the
    people who created them. Over the next few months the list of events will grow.

    You may see the entire list of happenings in
    New Bern here.


    http://www.newbern300th.com/