May 18, 2012
Timepiece again keeping pace
Main Street clock from the early 1900s restored
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Eric Hooker, of Eric’s Clocks in Fairport, installs clockfaces Thursday afternoon at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue. He recently completed renovating the clock.
When Rich Andrews bought the building on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue in 2009, one of the features that caught his eye was an old clock, mounted on the corner of the building.
The clock, sitting about 15 feet above the sidewalk, was about 3 feet tall, had three faces and did not work.
In fact, it had not worked in a long, long time.
“It reminded me of the old-fashioned Main Street you used to see in small cities,” Andrews said. “It gives an impression of the strength of a local economy. I think it’s an attractive component of a bygone era.”
The building was originally the Cortland National Bank, until it moved to the corner of Court and Main streets in the 1950s.
Andrews used the building to open a satellite office of his insurance business, the Andrews Agency. Since he bought the building, he has been trying to find a way to fix the clock.
Finding someone to fix the clock was a problem. Andrews called Russ Oechsle, in Homer. Oechsle said he could not do that type of repair job but he knew a man who might be able to help.
He put Andrews in touch with Eric Hooker who fixes and repairs old clocks. It is a hobby the Fairport man latched onto while repairing antique furniture and now it is his life. Over the years his collection has grown to an estimated 2,000 clocks.
“It’s a disease,” Hooker said, laughing.
Hooker came to Cortland last May, dismantled the clock and began to work on it. He tinkered with it for a year, kept some of the parts that worked and replaced the ones that did not.
On Thursday he spent most of the day fiddling with the wiring and the hydraulic lift. Around noon, the first new dial went in. At 4:35 p.m. all three clock faces were ticking away.
Andrews’ clock is a rare one. Hooker estimates it’s only the fifth or sixth working one of that age and style he has come across in the past 40 years.
The building was constructed around 1915, according to Mary Ann Kane, the city’s historian, but the clock is slightly younger, likely made in the 1920s, Hooker said.
The original clock was made by the Standard Electric Time Co. of Springfield, Mass.
It is made mostly of copper and bronze and appears as if it is covered in an old coat of green paint. In fact, that is the color of the aged copper and brass, Andrews said.
“I was going to clean it up and paint it but Eric told me, ‘absolutely not, it’s an old clock and it’s supposed to look like an old clock,’” he said.
The clock’s hands and faces are all original. The glass dials are made of milk glass, an opaque glass, more often associated with decorative dishes. Black Roman numerals are etched into the glass.
The new clock will be backlit by three lamps. When the sun sets, the lamps will automatically turn on.
Inside the building, a master control box will regulate the clock so that it will change automatically with Daylight Savings Time and adjust itself after a power failure.
Hooking up the control box was a challenge in itself. Since the Andrews Agency is housed in an old bank building, it has 18-inch thick granite walls. Andrews and his father-in-law found an 18-inch long drill bit to drill through the wall with in order to install the new wiring.
“We just made it through,” he said. “I’m not sure what we would have done if we didn’t make it through.”
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