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Holyoke City Hall’s Tower Clock is Operating for the First Time In Decades

Long known for its innovation, ingenuity and fortitude, Holyoke is also known as one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States. These qualities continue to this day as a group of hard working people, who cared enough about an often forgotten technology, came together to help repair the City Hall tower clock.

The tower clock worked for 113 years before spending the past thirty years in a period of dormancy. However, the dedicated volunteer effort of led by Dave Cotton, owner of Cotton Tree Service, is going to allow the City Hall Tower Clock to operate once again.

After logging hundreds of volunteer hours, Mr. Cotton has pooled together his resources, various experts and donated materials from such local companies as Sullivan Steel to resurrect Holyoke’s Tower Clock. Starting at midnight on the Fourth of July, residents of the City and surrounding towns will be able to look up at Holyoke City Hall where they will see a 143-year old clock keeping track of time for the first time in a generation. At night, the 8-foot milk glass panels will be backlit by LED lights. 

“I can’t thank Dave and his team enough for their work that has led to this historic clock being brought into operation for the first time in decades. When he approached me about this project, offering to volunteer his own time and money to see it through, we were very excited,” said Mayor Morse.

Dressed in overalls and smelling of wood chips, Dave has become well known to many city employees. Some have become so inspired by his passion to fix the dormant tower clock, they have also volunteered their own time. Working long into the night, Dave and his helpers replaced, cleaned, and repaired aspects of the mechanisms driving the clock.

“It is inspiring to see so many people come together to make this a reality. In addition to Dave and his team, I’d like to offer special thanks to the various city departments who made this a reality.  Especially the Office of Community Development and the Conservation Commission, who first brought this project to my attention,” Mayor Morse added.

Below is the history of City Hall and its tower

Holyoke City Hall was constructed in 1871. One of the most striking features of the building was its great granite tower which housed a bell and a four-faced clock that displays Roman numerals. In a time when most workers did not own watches this tower acted as a community timepiece for the workers in the mills. 

With its 220-foot main tower, Holyoke’s City Hall became one of the City’s most noticeable landmarks. While the height of the tower is noteworthy, the tower itself houses one of Holyoke’s most impressive historical artifacts: a Seth Thomas Tower Clock built in 1875 in Thompson, CT specifically for Holyoke’s City Hall. From the need to accommodate a 14-foot, 325 pound pendulum, to the need to house the inner-workings of the movement room that powered four eight-foot clock faces, each section the City Hall tower were designed and built to accommodate the Seth Thomas Tower Clock, which served as a powerful statement of Holyoke’s importance as the cradle of North American industry in the 19th-Century. 

Among one of the largest Seth Thomas clocks installed in North America, Holyoke’s clock tower was designed as a community timekeeping mechanism that was both beautiful and functional in the pre-smartphone era when wrist watches, pocket watches and grandfather clocks were still considered extravagantly expensive for ordinary laborers. The effort and detail that Holyoke’s founders considered when they procured this Tower Clock can be seen in the fact that three different masters worked on its individual components. Seth Thomas designed the clock mechanism, A. E. Hotchkiss designed the timekeeping mechanism, and E. Howard from Boston designed the transmission that transferred the energy from the pendulum to the four massive clock faces on the City Hall Clock Tower. The importance of this Tower Clock can be seen in historical budget documents in City Hall. For example, one budget from 1915 lists a jeweler named A. Judson Rand of Fairfield Avenue as the Caretaker of the City Hall Clock and paid him an annual stipend of $50 for his efforts. 

Posted on July 5, 2018 by