Clock Tower Tribute Planned for 375th Anniversary
A Working Glass Structure will be Placed in Front of Centre School
By Editor Kyle Stucker
Hampton-NorthHamptonPatch, Wednesday, April 11, 2012
[The following article is courtesy of Hampton-NorthHamptonPatch.com]
A group of volunteers say they have completed a concept design for a history-rich monument they hope to have ready for the celebration next year in order to pay tribute to the town's past.
The volunteers presented a design for the structure, which is proposed as a glass and brick housing containing the century-old town bell and clock, to the Hampton School Board on Tuesday.
The 1897 bell and clock have been damaged for years since they fell from the Odd Fellows building steeple during a fire in January 1990, although restorations are nearing their completion and the group would like to prominently place the historic items in a working structure in front of Centre School, said former Selectman Cliff Pratt during the presentation.
Pratt said he is optimistic the long-awaited work will be finished in time for the 375th ceremony in August 2013, and he said the next steps involve working with Centre School staff to create a formal design for a monument that meets their needs and brings a masterfully-crafted, handmade piece of history back to life.
"When you take on a project like this, you don’t really realize how extensive it is [until you start it]," said Pratt. "It’s been in storage for the last 20 to 25 years, and I think it’ll be a nice addition to bring back to the town.
"It's a wonderful project and it’s really a labor of love, but hopefully it will all come together."
The extensive in-progress restoration of the clock and bell, the associated engineering work and the construction of the stylized structure itself will all be funded through private donations and won't impact the tax rate, according to Pratt.
The current idea involves showcasing, behind protective glass, between one and three wooden faces of the old clock and how its weights and handmade parts operate. The structure would also allow residents to see how the hammer mechanism strikes the stationary bell, which Pratt said is currently receiving a sandblasting as a part of the restoration process.
Pratt said roughly $1,400 has spent to date out of the $30,000 generously donated by one individual several years ago. Pratt estimated the total project will cost around $70,000, though, and he said after finalizing a design with Centre School his group will seek private donations from residents looking to help the cause.
Pratt had asked the School Board in February to present the concept designs, and several members said they were impressed by Tuesday's presentation.
"It's looking good," said Chairwoman Peppa Ring. "It'll be exciting."
The bell and the pieces of the clock had been in storage at different times since the 1990 fire, according to Pratt.
Details about the history of the clock and bell were limited Tuesday night, although a search through town records and archived meeting minutes between 2004 and 2006 revealed that selectmen had authorized the restoration at some point in the early-to-mid 2000s.
The bell, which according to this Hampton Union article from 2005 was presented to the town in 1897 by John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass., had recently been on display at H.G. Webber Antiques while Robert Webber and his son, Harvey, donated their time to restore it.
More information about the history of the clock and bell can be found in a brief article by Cris Salomon, a Lavallee Brensinger architect volunteering his time to the community group, attached to this post under "PDFs."
Pratt said work still needs to be done to restore the wooden clock faces, and he said it's possible that only one of the faces can be salvaged. Other remaining steps in the process include working out who will pay for the minimal electricity required to power the clock's electric winders, as well as how the group can begin fundraising ideas like an "adopt-a-brick" campaign to help fund the monument.
Pratt said he's optimistic that the funding will come once residents get a chance to see the plans in greater detail, as he said people are already "being very wonderful" about the idea.
"I'm sure when we reach out to the town some people will come forward and help us out," he said.