The Westfield "Town Clock"

The First United Methodist Church
One East Broad Street
Westfield, New Jersey

Written by John R. Panosh, Restorer and Project Director


continued from the previous page

There is no sure explanation regarding the long silence of the hour striker. We know, based on correspondence from former Westfield residents and church members, that the clock struck the hours as late as the 30's. However, winding the clock was a hazardous and time-consuming task not enjoyed by the church sexton.

The striker cranking mechanism located over the tower stairway prevented all but the most hardy from lifting the 1100 lb. weights to the top of the tower. As time passed, interest waned in the preservation and upkeep of the clock. Finally there was no one left to understand and maintain the mechanism, and the clock no longer struck the hour.

Extensive research into the history of the Westfield Town Clock provided us with the name of the one person who could tell us about the manufacture, functions,and operation and maintenance of the E. Howard #2 Flatbed Striker Clock. We contacted the Reverend Herbert Freeland, a past associate pastor of the Westfield First United Methodist Church, an ardent horologist and member of the Tower Clock Chapter, NAWCC. Reverand Freeland, now pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Roselle Park, New Jersey, informed us that the best authority on tower clocks was Mr. Dana Blackwell, of Naugatuck, Conn., a former VP of the E. Howard Clock Co., and a recognized expert on all E. Howard Clocks.

Correspondance with Mr. Blackwell proved fruitful as we were able to ascertain that the Westfield Town Clock was completed in November, 1886, and shipped to Westfield on November 29, 1886. Mr. Blackwell, who is associated with the Clock and Watch Museum in Bristol, Conn., maintains that there are many E.Howard Clocks dating back to the 1840's that are still operating today. Says Mr.Blackwell, "The Howard clocks were manufactured to run for at least 200 years with competent maintenance."

The most recent clock fund drive, the third since 1886, and an extension of the original 1993 fund drive, was established in 1997 and completed in 1998. This effort raised $5,000 which would allow the purchase and installation of a specially designed motor winding system for lifting the 1000 strike weights each eight days. The motor system, designed and installed by Stevenson Services, of Bristol, Connecticut, engages to wind the weights on demand, and permits the weights to fall as the hours are struck. The motor, gear, and chain drive system is installed in such a way that it can be removed, thus returning the clock operation to its historic crank winding design.

Many "Friends of the Westfield Town Clock" participated in the motorization fund drive. We wish to thank the Westfield Historical Society for its support. With the Society help and the generous effort of Mr. George Brownell, who wrote the application for funding, we were also able to receive, in 1998, a grant from the Westfield Foundation, without which the project could not have been completed.

The second fund drive since 1886 was established in June of 1993. The purpose this time was to raise $8400 to $10,000 to cover the cost of restoring the clock dials to their original appearances. Both dials were badly weathered from 83 years of exposure to the elements. The west dial showed additional signs of wear and tear. Close inspection revealed that the crown stones above that dial had shifted and tilted downward placing excessive weight on the dial and numerals. The brickwork inside the tower that holds the dial in place had also crumbled.

After much investigation and research, we had the good fortune to locate and retain Mr. Stephen Cowdell of STEVENSON SERVICES, LLC, in Bristol, Conn.He would take on the delicate and painstaking task of completely restoring the dials. The restoration included removal, reshaping, and resetting of the crown stones plus new hands, new paint, recaulking of the dials inside and out, securing loose minute marks and numerals, and finally new gold leaf.

(Click here to see color photographs of "before" and "after".)

The gilding was applied through a painstaking process of transferring gold from micro-thin sheets to each mark, numeral, and hand. In keeping with the intent of the original clock maker, the restored clock faces now shine brilliantly in direct sunlight, and can easily be seen from a great distance in all weather conditions.Similarly, the restored clockworks retain the original crank-winding time and strike mechanisms.

Contributions underwriting this project were received from church members, Westfield residents, merchants, local businesses, benevolent associations, and the Westfield Historical Society. To them we owe a debt of gratitude. We thank them one and all for support and donations - both large and small. A gold framed plaque showing the names of everyone who contributed to the restoration of the 1886 E.Howard & Co."Westfield Town Clock" hangs on the stairway leading to the clock tower.

We thank all those who supported us in this grand historical project. Their donations helped us to see it through so that passersby in the next century will see, hear, and enjoy this "treasure on the plaza" in the Town of Westfield, New Jersey.

John R. Panosh
Restorer and Project Director

Stephen H. Merrill
Project Assistant

Tours of the clock and bell tower can be arranged by calling the church office at 908-233-4211 during regular business hours. Or you can contact John R. Panosh, clock curator and Westfield Town Bellmaster via e-mail at Groups of 15-20 can be accomodated. Children should be at least seven years old and adequate supervision must be provided.

Color Photos

Pen and Ink Drawing

History of the "Town Clock"

Visit the offical website of the First United Methodist Church of Westfield

Click below to visit the entire "Westfield, New Jersey" community . . .

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