NORWAY – The historic E. Howard clock that overlooks the downtown from atop the Opera House may get a face-lift.

Jim Bryant of Wayne, keeper of the century-old timepiece that was installed in the Opera House clock tower by the Norway Building Association in 1894, said he would like to restore the four dials back to their original E. Howard hand style.

“I’d love to see the correct style put back on,” said Bryant, who works on some two dozens clock towers from York to Castine each year and has a $500 annual contract with Norway to keep the clock oiled and in good repair.

According to Bryant, the clock hands were replaced about 50 years ago, and because they were too heavy for the gearing, extensive wear has occurred over time. Bryant has proposed that the hands be replaced with original style Howard hands and dial work using cast acrylic surfacing and marine aluminum numerals. It would be finished with 23-karat gold leaf numerals and hands on a slate black surface. Some dry rot problems would also be addressed. The work would bring the clock back to its original splendor and provide years of maintenance-free service, he said.

The cost would be $6,200 per dial, for a total parts and labor cost of $24,800. Town Manager David Holt said he will recommend approval of the project at the June annual town meeting.

The clock originally ran with a weight-driven system that failed and was replaced with a less costly electric system in the 1950s.

Occasionally a power surge, such as one during the recent nor’easter, will throw the clock out of kilter, but Bryant said he quickly gets it back on time. He simply pulls a pin, rotates the hands forward manually, then drops the pin back in.

“It would be nice to have the clock run by a quartz-accurate system. It would maintain accuracy even with a power bump,” said Bryant. “The mechanism is in good shape. Now I’d like to see something better for time keeping.”

The E. Howard Clock Co. was established in 1842 in Massachusetts. Today its clocks can be found throughout the country. They were largely constructed on town halls, courthouses, churches and schools, but during the 20th century many of the original, mechanical movements were discarded or replaced with electrically-driven mechanisms such as in Norway.

“I have found E. Howard parts in Dumpsters,” said Bryant , a retired steam-fitter in his 70s who still climbs the stairs up the tower through three different trap doors, past the enormous bell and pigeon droppings, occasionally brushing off a bee, hornet, pigeon or bat to get to the clock.

“My dad owned a grain mill in Buckfield. I remember I used to walk over Streaked Mountain to see a movie in South Paris and go to Goodwins (dairy bar) for an Awful Awful. That’s a malted a milk shake,” recalled Bryant of his first impressions of the stately clock tower.

Bryant, who has been fixing clocks for the past 50 years after he was given a cuckoo clock when he got married, said if the funding is approved, he will make original style dials, such as the ones on the Hebron Academy clock in Hebron, out of aluminum and wash them in gold leaf. “You’ll see it glitter in the moonlight,” he said.


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