Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Only plywood is visible in the face holes of the clock tower atop Baker City Hall.

The clock faces have been blank for a few weeks. Several pieces of the clock were sent two weeks ago to a company that specializes in repairing and restoring tower and street clocks.

Essence of Time, in Lockport, N.Y., fully restored the tower clock on the Baker County Courthouse in 2009.

The company has been in business for about 30 years and is known for restoring the nation's oldest tower clock, circa 1750, at the Old Hillsborough Courthouse in Hillsborough, N.C.

Some parts of the Baker City Hall clock that were sent to the company appeared to have some wear, but mostly they "just need to be cleaned up," City Manager Mike Kee said.

The company also will fashion new clock hands made from aluminum and painted to aesthetically fit the timepiece.

Cost will be $600 for the replacement hands.

Kee said the clock could be operating again by the end of the month.

"We're all anxious for it to get fixed," he said.

City employees started taking the clock apart and examining it piece by piece, carefully cleaning it, soon after it stopped working properly this past fall.

They had help from local jeweler Tabor Clarke, who also has worked on the courthouse clock when it malfunctioned.

Many of the city hall clock's moving parts, such as its hands and dials, "hadn't been cleaned for at least 15 years," Kee said.

Pieces that appeared to be especially dirty and potentially worn down were photographed and the images sent by email to the restorer for closer inspection.

The company used the images to determine which parts would most likely require their hands-on expertise. Those pieces were sent back east, Kee said.

The clock tower was also damaged during the windstorm that blew through Baker City on Dec. 17, but it has since been repaired.

The City Hall clock has received quite a bit of attention over the past decade or so.

During the spring of 2005, the city workers who wind the clock by hand about once a week noticed that it wasn't keeping good time.

Clarke inspected the clock and traced the problem to a brass bushing not much bigger than a quarter.

He found a few other worn parts and - here's where the story begins to sound familiar - sent them to Chuck Roeser at Essence of Time in New York.

Roeser machined a pair of steel pinions and two brass bushings, and the clock resumed the reliable service that it had maintained for almost the whole of the 20th century.

Baker City Hall, 1655 First St., is a two-story building constructed of locally quarried Pleasant Valley tuffstone with a copper roof. It was completed in 1903.

There are two other noteworthy clock towers located in the downtown area: at the Baker County Courthouse and Geiser Grand Hotel.

The Courthouse clock, like the one at City Hall, is an original.

The Geiser Grand's clock is a replica that was added when Barbara and Dwight Sidway restored the 1889 building in the mid 1990s.