HARRISON — The town’s tower clock, installed nearly 90 years ago, could run another 700 years, plus or minus.

But that likely won’t happen if it’s left where it is, Rick and Linda Balzer told town officials Wednesday.

Seven hundred years for a clock to stay running is no exaggeration, according to Rick Balzer.

“There are clocks from the 1350s that are still running in Europe,” he said.

The Freeport couple, owners of Balzer Family Clock Works, were called to find out why the clock hasn’t been running smoothly and to fix it so it’s back to keeping good time again.

“It’s going to keep stopping, because you can’t properly maintain it where it is,” Rick Balzer told Town Manager Bud Finch and Selectmen Richard St. John Wednesday.

“The environment up there is horrible,” he said, as his wife got ready to climb a ladder from the second floor through a hatchway into the attic.

Now referred to as The Block building, it was built by the International Order of Odd Fellows, Harrison Lodge 41, to replace another building that burned in 1921. That building was erected after another fire in 1907 burned eight buildings in the village to the ground, according to the Bicentennial History of Harrison.

The Block building isn’t owned by the town, but Linda Balzer said it wasn’t unusual in New England for town clocks to be located in whatever the tallest building was — often a church steeple. According to Finch, there are several owners of the building now, who bought sections of it as condominiums.

After completely restoring the clock in 1998, the Balzers pressed town officials to start thinking about moving it out of the tower so it could be more properly cared for and maintained. That didn’t happen, and for the last few years, Peter Toohey of High Street has done his best to keep it going.

“I noticed when I got it going the last time, there was kind of a little skip in it,” he told the Balzers. Every time he works on the clock, he brings his own ladder to the second floor, puts it up against the wall in the hallway, climbs up to the ceiling, pushes open the hatch, then walks, hunched over, amid blown-in insulati0n, which becomes airborne, to a 4-foot-square opening in the wall to gain access to the clock room.

In her notes from the 1998 restoration, Linda Balzer wrote, “In the clock room, there is a short ladder to a narrow opening for access to the dial and bell area. This difficult access will definitely have an effect on the frequency and ease of performing the required maintenance procedures and adjustments.”

The Balzers have been successful in convincing clock tower owners in several other cities, including Lewiston, to remove works from towers and encase them in glass in a public area. This not only protects the workings and provides for easy maintenance, it also becomes an interesting public display.

“It would be great if this could be enclosed in glass,” Rick Balzer said. “Kids would love to see this stuff. We’re not talking about major dollars here.”

“We get letters from people, thanking us for talking them into doing this,” he added. One of these letters came from the city of Lewiston after the 2004 glass enclosure of the 1891 E. Howard clock.

Assistant City Administrator Phil Nadeau thanked the Balzers for working “to raise community awareness,” saying this “went a long way toward educating our community as to what an incredible piece of history they had before them.”

Linda York said Harrison’s Seth Thomas clock is dated Jan. 16, 1923, and the date on the bell is 1923. The Balzers said they would be happy to make a public presentation about the merits of moving the clock if there is interest.

St. John served on the clock restoration committee in 1998.

“It’s a beautiful mechanical piece of art,” he said.

While town officials weren’t sure how the purchase of the clock came about, the town’s 1921-22 town report says there were two warrant articles for the annual town meeting in March: one to approve building the clock tower, and another to buy the clock.

According to the town clerk’s record book, it was at the March 1923 annual town meeting that “voters approved spending $2,500 to build a tower on the IOOF block building.”

However, according to the Bicentennial History of Harrison, the money to the buy the clock ultimately didn’t come from the taxpayers. Noting that the building itself opened in June 1922, when 500 people watched movies and enjoyed dancing, Mrs. J. Howard Randall raised the money from donations that ranged from $1 to $25.

The history also notes that the fund began with $500 that the town received from insurance on the clock that was destroyed when the building burned in the 1921 fire.

“The new clock was a Seth Thomas model with four faces, costing $1,250,” according to the history.

The annual report from 1924-25 notes that insurance for the new clock was purchased at a cost of $22.50, and that Mr. W.P. Smith was paid $20 to take care of the town clock.

Seth Thomas was one of the most successful clockmakers in America and was well known for producing high-quality timepieces beginning in the 1800s.

In addition to restoring timepieces, the Balzers are currently the only people in the country who build tower clocks, having built them for LL Bean, Colby College, Neiman Marcus and several others.

Finch said different boards of selectmen and different town managers have had various opinions on what should be done with the clock, but if taxpayer dollars are involved, it will ultimately be up to the voters. At this point, he is looking at what the options are, whether it’s trying to maintain it in its current position, moving it somewhere else in the building or moving it to another location.

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