Town Clock Mystery Solved
"Tick Tock, Where's The Clock?"
By Nancy Rineman
Atlantic News, Thursday, December 21, 2000
HAMPTON -- Discussion focusing on the whereabouts of the Town Clock has become a regular item at the selectmen's Monday night meetings lately, and this week was no exception. In the meantime, former Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Glen French, whose name has most often been mentioned in the mystery of the clock's location, admitted to the Atlantic News that the works for the clock have been in his possession since the fire that destroyed the Odd Fellows Building in January 1990.
"I am the only person who has had possession of this clock," French said Tuesday. "It has never been stored in the blacksmith's shop as previously reported. It is currently stored in someone's house in their garage.
French said the entire mechanism, which weighs about 500-pounds, is stored in five large boxes, and is cast iron, not bronze, as has been sometimes reported. French said there was a bronze plate attached to the works which was removed for cleaning after the fire, but has not been seen by him since.
French said he salvaged the clockwork parts in an effort to attempt restoration of the entire Howard Tower Clock, which had been a gift to the Town of Hampton from John Brown of Newburyport in the late 1800's. French said it was his understanding that Brown was a regular traveler through Hampton and was always looking for the time.
When the clockworks appeared close to being discarded after the fire, French said he approached then Town Manager Phil Richards, asking if he could take the works "to protect them."
"My mission, non-resident that I am, was to develop a plan to repair, reassemble, and put it back into a town location."
French said he was willing to give the works back if and when someone finally had developed a plan for them. He even attempted to give them to the Historical Society, but claims they had nowhere to put the works.
"Our original intent was to have the Chamber buy the original lot of land which housed the Odd Fellows Building, with retail on first floor, the Chamber offices on the second floor, and the Odd Fellows meeting room on the third floor." Efforts to raise funds for this project never got off the ground, French said. Other ideas for restoring the town clock were assembling the clock at ground level downtown, or putting in a glass case on top of the gazebo. Putting it on the roof of Lamies was another idea, he said.
"The works are old," French said. "They are interesting in their size."
"I saved them -- no one cared," French added.
French said the clock works have been in Hampton all along, except for a brief time when they were stored near his residence in Exeter, after he left his position with the Hampton Chamber. And while the question still remains as to whether the $10,000 to $12,000 repair estimate would be worthwhile to restore the works and get the Town Clock back in its original working order, the exact location of the mechanism also remains in question. When pressed for a location, French would only say that they are currently probably less than a mile in distance from Hampton's Town Office Building.
At Monday night's selectmen's meeting, Selectman Bonnie Searle, in her never-ending quest to regain possession of the clock for the town, once again asked Town Manager James Barrington if anyone had any news on the location of the clock. While at least two faces and the bell were reportedly at the Public Works Garage, Barrington said he would hope that whoever has the works would return them, or it could be considered "theft by unlawful taking."
"This is a piece of Hampton's history and I think it is (the responsibility) of the Hampton selectmen to locate it," Searle said.
"Perhaps it's time that we initiated a formal public investigation," Searle continued. "I would like an investigation by the Town of Hampton Police Department."
Selectman Virginia Bridle, saying she was not sure that an investigation was needed, agreed with Searle that someone needed to confront the one individual everyone seemed to have linked to the missing clockworks.