The Plaza's Historic Clock
In December 2020
the Seth Thomas Tower Clock was installed in Bogardus Plaza. It is a focal point of the plaza's redesign and dates back
to the early 1900s.
The tower clock in Bogardus Plaza first appeared in the Seth Thomas Clock Company order book on May 19,1910. At that time, the price of the clock was listed as$275.25, or what would be roughly $8,000 today. The original clock looked a little different from the clock that stands in the plaza today. Over one hundred years ago it had quarter-inch plate glass covers, black Arabic numbers, black hands, and a stippled “French zinc” background. On the top of the clock was a small ornament and the clock head was wired with sockets for incandescent lamps.
From MI to Canada to NY
The clock was originally installed on the sidewalk at Morgan’s Jewelers at 121 South Washington Avenue in Lansing, Michigan. During its time there, the clock's mechanical movement was removed and the clock was electrified. The dial was changed and the top ornament was replaced with a Morgan's Jewelers neon sign. When Morgan’s went out of business sometime after 1979, Karl Barathy, a local horologist from Haslett, Michigan, acquired the clock as payment for services he performed for the defunct store. Between 2000-2010 the clock was purchased at auction by Hugh Sinclair of Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Then later, in preparation for the sale to Friends of Bogardus Plaza, Hugh Sinclair undertook the restoration of the clock.
The restoration handled by Hugh Sinclair included both cosmetic and mechanical upgrades. The exterior of the clock was stripped and repainted with “Hot Rod Black” paint and a reproduction cast-iron top finial was added to match the clock's original design. The missing original door lock was replaced and a reproduction brass winding key was installed. Two painted, cypress wood bezels were installed as were tempered glass dials and covers with silk-screened numbers, all made by Eric Ryback of the St. Louis Street Clock Company.
The motion-work mechanism behind the dials is original to this clock but the electric movement was replaced with an original Seth Thomas mechanical movement which was restored by Ben Orszulak of Toronto. An industrial electrician rewired the clock's original dial light sockets, installed Edison-base LED bulbs and added a socket to the center of the dial to prevent shadow lines from the interior mechanism.
This historic mechanical movement clock is not electric powered and therefore has to be wound once per week, just like they did in the old days. Friends of Bogardus Plaza is working with local volunteers to help with this unique process that will be required on a weekly basis for the lifetime of the clock. Other maintenance will be left to the experts, like Marvin Schneider, the city's Clock Master. Professionals like Marvin will be responsible for changing the LED bulbs through the doors in the bezel and removing the dials to replace the one light in the clock's center. In addition, twice a year (likely in the spring and fall before weather extremes) the clock's oil mechanism will need to be changed. A historic clock is not as easy to maintain as modern electrical tower clocks, but Friends of Bogardus Plaza is thrilled to be part of the history and tradition surrounding maintaining an authentic clock from the 1900s. In 2020, FBP was awarded a Preservation Award from the Victorian Society of New York for their work on the restoration of the clock.