The Return of Brockport’s Tower Clock

By on May 7, 2018

Restored and to be restarted after 104 Years

Charles “Chuck” Roeser stands with the clockworks which were restored by his company, the Essence of Time Tower and Street Clock Experts in Lockport. As hands-on owner of the company, he spent the day disassembling and assembling the unit that was carried up to the tower in parts. The clockworks were restored to the original condition including the pin stripe paint detail. Cables can be seen which are connected to weights that power the clock and bell strike. Provided photo

Charles “Chuck” Roeser stands with the clockworks which were restored by his company, the Essence of Time Tower and Street Clock Experts in Lockport. As hands-on owner of the company, he spent the day disassembling and assembling the unit that was carried up to the tower in parts. The clockworks were restored to the original condition including the pin stripe paint detail. Cables can be seen which are connected to weights that power the clock and bell strike. Provided photo

On July 13, 2017, the clock mechanism and hands were removed from the Tower Clock atop the United Methodist Church on Main Street in Brockport. After more than 100 years of keeping time and tolling the hours, it had stopped about a year before. In caring hands for months at the Essence of Time Tower and Street Clock Experts in Lockport, the restored mechanism and hands were returned to the tower on Thursday, April 26.  The Tower Clock is owned and maintained by the Village of Brockport.

An assessment of Brockport’s Tower Clock by a leading authority

During the day a Village DPW crew of three, supervised by foreman Dave Moore, carried heavy parts into the tower. The biggest challenge was in disassembling the heavy clockworks (see photo) and carrying the pieces into the floor of the tower about 60 feet below the clock faces.

The technician who was reassembling the clockworks turned out to be Charles (“Chuck”) Roeser, none other than the owner of the national company Essence of Time. He started a small clock store and repair shop in 1973 and has become known as one of the leading authorities on historical clock restoration in the nation, according to the company web site.

Roeser was asked how this clock matched up to similar ones in western New York.   “We know that Seth Thomas Company made 3,200 of these tower clocks, all different models and sizes,” he said. “They made about 600 of this Model #15.”  He explained there were a number of them in Buffalo, “but most of them are gone … taken out and sold,” he added with regret. “There is one like this left in Buffalo and there might be one in Rochester.”

Historic value of the original mechanism

Asked about any special features of this clock, Roeser said, “What’s unique is that it has all original parts and is manually wound.” In fact, those original parts in the intricate clockworks did not fail; it was the gears behind the dials (hands) that froze up, he added. For many other such surviving clocks, he explained, “Most of the escapement parts have been torn out of them and holes were drilled to mount electric motors.”  The electric motors power the clockworks instead of the original weights that are manually cranked up on cables and slowly descend to drive the mechanism (similar to a “grandfather’s clock”).

From Roeser’s comments, it became clear that there is more than Village history being preserved in the restored Tower Clock.  The project also safeguards a slowly disappearing original artifact in the centuries-old history of these Seth Thomas Clocks. It might not have been so. Dave Moore recalls many years ago hearing that Brockport officials were considering electrifying the Village’s Tower Clock. Wisdom prevailed and today the pulleys, cables, and weights are preserved in their original historic detail.  Moore has made his own hands-on contribution to that preservation. A 30-year employee with DPW, each week for about 20 of those years he turned the crank to wind the clock.

Start up and rededication of the clock 

On that busy day April 26, Roeser disassembled and reassembled the clockworks.  Moore’s crew, after toting clock parts upstairs, connected cables and weights and the drive shaft was put in place. Soon, Roeser will return from Lockport to reassemble the gears for the dials. The clock will be tested, but not started up permanently.

There had been a plan to ceremoniously start the clock near the original May date in 1914, when the clock was started for the first time.  With no time to accomplish that, the start-up will be combined with a rededication ceremony on June 25, the date when the clock was first dedicated in 1914. “The dedication was a signature event in the history of the village, attracting a crowd of 1,500,” Bill Andrews said.

On June 25, the rededication ceremony will be held in Sagawa Park at 4:30 and the clock will be started at 5 o’clock.  Plans are still being made for that event by the Brockport Lions Club collaborating with Village officials. The Tower Clock project has been a Legacy Project by the Lions Club, co-chaired by Lions John Carey and Dave Moore.

The Lions Club’s fundraising has helped exceed the $21,500 needed to repair the clock (in addition to a Rochester Area Community Foundation grant and funds from community veterans organizations).  The surplus is in a fund for the future maintenance of the clock. The fund will help increase the longevity of the clock, projected by Charles Roeser who said, “If maintained, oiled a couple of times a year, and taken care of, you should have 50 more years.”

Dave Moore was asked what he thinks about preserving this rare time piece. “After 100 years, it’s amazing it still works,” he replied.  “It’s a piece of Village history and we need to keep the history going.”

(Notes: The original story about the United Methodist Church Tower Clock and its history, with detailed photos, appeared in Suburban News and Hamlin-Clarkson Herald on June 25, 2017. See the web site www.westsidenewsny.com under “archives.”

The Essence of Time Tower and Street Clock Experts in Lockport provide a list of customers across the nation. It includes the renovation of America’s oldest working tower clock at Hillsborough, NC, and of the tower clock in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA.  See their fascinating web site at www.ustowerclock.com.)

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