Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

E Howard clock #1141 and the McNeely Bell

The 1886 E. Howard clock, serial number 1141, which graces the tower of the First United Methodist Church of Westfield, New Jersey, was purchased with funds raised by a fair and dinner on December 16 and 17, 1886.
The gala occasion, under the management of Miss Mary E. Mapes, was held in the first Arcanum Hall. The events were hosted by the "Ladies of Westfield," the First Methodist Episcopal Church as it was known in those days, and with the cooperation of other Westfield churches, merchants, and townsfolk whose desire it was to have a town clock and bell in a central location for all to see and hear.
The goal was to raise at least $600.00 - a large sum of money in 1886. The fair and supper were successful and more than enough money was raised to fully endow the 1886 clock fund. The advertisement for and a list of the people who conducted the fair and supper can be seen in a copy of the 1886 Westfield Methodist, a copy of which is available from the clock restorer or from an original in the files of the Westfield Historical Society.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Westfield, dedicated in 1877. This was the first steeple to hold the 1886 E. Howard Clock and Meneely Bell weighing 2,048 lbs.
In 1873, the Methodist Episcopal society of Westfield engaged J. N. Wilcox, a local carpenter and builder, to construct the second church on the present site at 1 East Broad Street. It was built on additional land donated by James R. Ferris and dedicated without the steeple in 1877.
The 2,048 lb. bell was furnished in 1886 by Mrs. Mary Burhans, a prominent citizen of Westfield. As the steeple of the church was still unfinished, Mrs. Burhans made an offer to the pastor, the Reverend G. W. Stevens: "If the people would build the steeple, she would present a bell of the best quality weighing not less than 2000 lbs." The offer was accepted and the bell was purchased from the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. in Troy, NY.
On the morning of October 5, 1886, under the watchful eyes of many passersby, the bell was raised and mounted in the steeple. At 6 PM that evening, with the grounds and streets crowded with carriages and townsfolk whose enthusiasm was at great heights, Mrs. Burhans pulled the rope of the tolling hammer 86 times to commemorate the number of years of her venerable age. The installation of the clock came soon afterwards.

    The clockworks and four dials were delivered to Westfield on November 29, 1886, and installed shortly thereafter. At that time the clock dials and works were located above the bell. The cost to finish the steeple and purchase the clock and bell was, according to financial records, about $3,000.00.
In 1910, ground was broken for construction of the third and present church. In 1911, both clock and bell were moved to the new tower. Today, still controlled by the original clockworks, the clock has only two dials which face south and west respectively. The present building of the First United Methodist Church of Westfield, built in 1910. The clock dials were restored in October, 1993, with the works and dials remaining historically accurate.
The restoration of the clockworks began in December, 1992, with the replacement of the bell clapper spring pads. The leather pads, found to be worn and crumbling, were restored using a nylon-based neoprene material. These were mounted on the clapper spring bases to prevent the clapper from ringing twice when the bell is "rolled." Upon investigation, the clock's striking mechanism, which had been silent since the 1930's, was found to be in good order. It was tested and reactivated in February, 1993.
There is no sure explanation regarding the long silence of the hour striker. We know, based on correspondence from former Westfield residents and church members, that the clock struck the hours as late as the 30's. However, winding the clock was a hazardous and time-consuming task not enjoyed by the church sexton.
The striker cranking mechanism located over the tower stairway prevented all but the most hardy from lifting the 1100 lb. weights to the top of the tower. As time passed, interest waned in the preservation and upkeep of the clock. Finally there was no one left to understand and maintain the mechanism, and the clock no longer struck the hour.
Extensive research into the history of the Westfield Town Clock provided us with the name of the one person who could tell us about the manufacture, functions,and operation and maintenance of the E. Howard #2 Flatbed Striker Clock. We contacted the Reverend Herbert Freeland, a past associate pastor of the Westfield First United Methodist Church, an ardent horologist and member of the Tower Clock Chapter, NAWCC. Reverend Freeland, now pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Roselle Park, New Jersey, informed us that the best authority on tower clocks was Mr. Dana Blackwell, of Naugatuck, Conn., a former VP of the E. Howard
Clock Co., and a recognized expert on all E. Howard Clocks.
Correspondence with Mr. Blackwell proved fruitful as we were able to ascertain that the Westfield Town Clock was completed in November, 1886, and shipped to Westfield on November 29, 1886. Mr. Blackwell, who is associated with the Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Conn., maintains that there are many E.Howard Clocks dating back to the 1840's that are still operating today. Says Mr.Blackwell, "The Howard clocks were manufactured to run for at least 200 years with competent maintenance."

The most recent clock fund drive, the third since 1886, and an extension of the original 1993 fund drive, was established in 1997 and completed in 1998. This effort raised $5,000 which would allow the purchase and installation of a specially designed motor winding system for lifting the 1000# strike weights each eight days. The motor system, designed and installed by Stevenson Services, of Bristol, Connecticut, engages to wind the weights on demand, and permits the weights to fall as the hours are struck. The motor, gear, and chain drive system is installed in such a way that it can be removed, thus returning the clock operation to its historic crank winding design.
Many "Friends of the Westfield Town Clock" participated in the motorization fund drive. We wish to thank the Westfield Historical Society for its support. With the Society help and the generous effort of Mr. George Brownell, who wrote the application for funding, we were also able to receive, in 1998, a grant from the Westfield Foundation, without which the project could not have been completed.
The second fund drive since 1886 was established in June of 1993. The purpose this time was to raise $8400 to $10,000 to cover the cost of restoring the clock dials to their original appearances. Both dials were badly weathered from 83 years of exposure to the elements. The west dial showed additional signs of wear and tear. Close inspection revealed that the crown stones above that dial had shifted and tilted downward placing excessive weight on the dial and numerals. The brickwork inside the tower that holds the dial in place had also crumbled.
After much investigationand research, we had the good fortune to locate and retain Mr. Stephen Cowdell of STEVENSON SERVICES, LLC, in Bristol, Conn.He would take on the delicate and painstaking task of completely restoring the dials. The restoration included removal, reshaping, and resetting of the crown stones plus new hands, new paint, recaulking of the dials inside and out, securing loose minute marks and numerals, and finally new gold leaf.
The gilding was applied through a painstaking process of transferring gold from micro-thin sheets to each mark, numeral, and hand. In keeping with the intent of the original clock maker, the restored clock faces now shine brilliantly in direct sunlight, and can easily be seen from a great distance in all weather conditions.Similarly, the restored clockworks retain the original crank-winding time and strike mechanisms.
Contributions underwriting this project were received from church members, Westfield residents, merchants, local businesses, benevolent associations, and the Westfield Historical Society. To them we owe a debt of gratitude. We thank them one and all for support and donations - both large and small. A gold framed plaque showing the names of everyone who contributed to the restoration of the 1886 E.Howard & Co."Westfield Town Clock" hangs on the stairway leading to the clock tower. We thank all those who supported us in this grand historical project. Their donations helped us to see it through so that passersby in the next century will see, hear, and enjoy this "treasure on the plaza" in the Town of Westfield, New Jersey.

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