Sunday, August 5, 2018

Time Stands Still

Last evening, I took this picture of the clock in steeple of the First Presbyterian Church.

Despite the fact that it was after six when I took the picture, the clock--all four faces--indicated it was five minutes to two. This morning, when I passed the clock, returning at about nine thirty from Joey's walk, the clock still said it was five minutes to two. There have been reports that the clock stopped at five minutes to two close to two weeks ago.

Not everyone understands the relationship between the clock in the tower of the First Presbyterian Church and the City of Hudson, and they should. It's a long and unique and quite remarkable one. Although the clock is located in the church steeple, it is not the church clock; it is the city clock. The City of Hudson is responsible for its care and keeping.

The tradition of the city clock being located in the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church goes back more than two hundred years. A footnote in Franklin Ellis's History of Columbia County explains: 
In 1801 (August 8) the council resolved "that Mr. Pratt and Reuben Folger be a committee to procure a suitable clock, with three dials, to be placed in the steeple of the Presbyterian meeting-house, and that they be authorized to procure a sum not exceeding $200 on loan for that purpose, to be applied with the sum already subscribed and now in the Bank for that purpose." That committee reported, Oct. 9, 1802, that they had placed the clock in the steeple, agreeably to directions. The cost of the clock and dials was $465.28.
Although I've known this information for years, I didn't fully appreciate how remarkable it was until I read Martin Bruegel's book, Farm, Shop, Landing: The Rise of a Market Society in the Hudson Valley, 1780-1850. Bruegel talks about the rarity of clocks at the turn of the nineteenth century and asserts that it wasn't until 1830 that "time had become a resource whose management mattered." Yet two decades earlier, the City of Hudson, itself less than two decades old, was installing a town clock in a church tower, where it could be seen by all.   

When the town clock was first installed in its steeple, the First Presbyterian Church was not in its current location. Instead, it was nearer the river, at the corner of Partition and Second streets. In those days, Partition Street was a major thoroughfare down to the river. This c. 1830 primitive watercolor of the Hudson waterfront, sold at auction at Sotheby's earlier this year, shows the First Presbyterian Church in its original location, with the clock in its tower.

In 1837, when the church moved to its new building at Warren and Fourth streets, the clock moved with it.

When the church was enlarged in 1877 and re-imagined in soaring Gothic design, the clock took pride of place in the taller of the two spires.

Although the clock faces haven't changed since 1877, the clock itself is just a little more than a hundred years old. It's a Seth Thomas clock installed in 1913Five years ago, the church and the city celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the clock. 

Photo: Dan Region
Photo: Dan Region
It is not known why the clock is currently not working. Is the problem with the hundred-year-old clock easily fixed or more complicated?

1 comment:

  1. I believe the clock remains in fine working order. It's a matter of winding it on a weekly basis. The "winding job" costs the city $800. a year and used to be available to a "clock keeper." However, a previous administration changed the law and gave that job solely to the DPW. It is the responsibility of the DPW to keep the clock in running order. It has stopped twice already since it was restarted last Christmas morning in honor of the removal of "condemned status" of the church roof.