WALNUT SQUARE TOWER
One Hundred Years of Teaching and Learning
Walnut Square School (645 Main Street) was constructed in 1898 at a cost of $30,000. The architect, Mr. C. Damon, also designed the old Haverhill City Hall that was razed in the mid 1960’s under the Urban Renewal Program.
The school’s tower clock was crafted by Mr. Edward Howard, the famous clockmaker of the 1890’s, at a cost of $1,300. E. Howard was born in Hingham, MA, and also founded the Waltham Watch Co. in Waltham, MA.
This weight driven, pendulum regulated timepiece, in the tower of the school, overlooking the city, is a monument to the neighborhood, and to the community. In the early 1950’s the clock stopped ticking, and was subsequently electrified. By 1961 the clock once again fell into disrepair and darkness - the clock stopped ticking, the bell fell silent, and the lights in the clock tower no longer illuminated the evening sky.
The Walnut Square Tower Clock Foundation, Inc. was established in 1993 to restore the clock, in order to acknowledge those who came before us, and for the generations to follow. The foundation’s goal was to bring the clock back to life in time for its 100th anniversary, in September 1998.
As the project began, the decision was made to relocate the clock’s timepiece from the tower to the third floor of the school, where it would be accessible for public viewing. The foundation raised $130,000 to restore the clock and make improvements to the tower, plus an additional $50,000 for the maintenance fund, bringing the grand total to $180,000.
The Balzer Family Clock Works Co. of Freeport, Maine was selected to bring the timepiece back to its original design of 1898. They have restored tower clocks across the country, including the Ayer Mill Clock in Lawrence.
The Balzers restored the clock mechanism, manufacturing the missing gears in their workshop. They also restored the four original cast-iron dials, comprised of Roman numerals and minute marks. In addition, they replaced the glass in all four faces, and reproduced four new sets of hands, made from California redwood.
Also installed, was an automatic winding mechanism that was specifically designed for the timepiece, along with a PM shut-off for the bell. Thus, the bell does not ring between 9 pm and 8 am
On Saturday September 19, 1998 - 100 years to the day that Walnut Square School opened - the Walnut Square Tower Clock Foundation celebrated the centennial anniversary of the school, and dedicated the restored tower clock. At noon the bell rang out for the first time since 1961. Approximately 600 people attended the open house to welcome in the next 100 years!
Back in 1898, Walnut Square School was supposed to open two weeks earlier; however, the furniture did not arrive on time, thus the September 19th opening.
With the clock mechanism on the third floor, this is the only tower clock in the region that can be viewed by the public - by appointment only. This provides a unique opportunity to showcase this piece of Haverhill’s history, in what is now a museum quality setting.
For horological trivia buffs, the original E. Howard clock included a fire strike mechanism manufactured by the Stevens Co. When the fire striker was activated, the bell in the tower would ring in a particular pattern, summoning the volunteer fire department to gather at the school. Once at the school, they would be informed of the location of the neighborhood fire. This was the high technology communication system of the 1890’s. The fire striker is no longer incorporated into the clock’s mechanism; however, it is on display.
The clock tower is approximately 90 feet tall. The clock faces are 70 feet high, and are 7 feet in diameter. The formula for determining the diameter of a tower clock face is one foot for every ten feet in height.
The Roman numeral IV is purposely designated as IIII, to offset the weight of the Roman numeral VIII, on the opposite side of the cast-iron dial. The VI is purposely upside down to follow the same pattern of the other Roman numerals.
The clock is a #2-size clock with time and strike functions. The #2 designates the size of the clock movement. The E. Howard Co. manufactured 0-4 sizes, #4 being the largest, i.e. the Ayer Mill Clock in Lawrence. (The Ayer Mill Clock, by E. Howard, is the largest mill clock in the world, with its face measuring 23’ 6” in diameter - only 6” smaller than Big Ben, in London, England)
All information courtesy of the Walnut Square Tower Clock Fdn
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