By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union , Tuesday, September 7, 2004
town clock shown in belfry. [Courtesy Post Card photo]
HAMPTON - Robert Webber has an idea for saving the town clock, which is currently collecting dust in the Town Hall after having been severely damaged by fire in 1990.
"I have already received 50 calls from people who are in support of saving the clock," he said.
These people have not only given Webber their verbal support, he said, they also have the money to back up their words.
Although he hasn't officially started to raise funds, he says he already has $6,000 worth of pledges.
"I'm ready to go, but I can't do anything until selectmen give me the OK," said Webber.
Two weeks ago the Board of Selectmen voted to auction off the damaged parts of the clock, but the board is expected to reconsider that vote at its Sept. 13 meeting.
The vote to sell the clock came after the Heritage Commission concluded that the cost of repairing the clock was just too high.
Webber has asked the selectmen for a chance to raise the funds to keep the clock in Hampton. He said it will cost $30,000 to repair the clock.
"Even if we fail, what do they have to lose?" he said. "We're just asking for a chance. If we can raise $100,000 for the gazebo, then we can raise $30,000 to repair the clock."
The clock was originally given to the town in 1897 as a gift. At the time, the town made a promise to keep the clock in working condition - a promise that hasn't been kept.
If the town puts the clock up for auction, Webber said, it won't get much money for it.
"The clock itself is not worth much," said Webber. "The value of the clock is to the town. This clock is a part of Hampton's heritage. Why would you give up our heritage when we have so little left?"
Harvey Webber, Robert's son, said he approached selectmen several years ago after the town found the clock.
After the 1990 fire, the whereabouts of the remaining parts of the clock were unknown. They were discovered shortly after selectmen began an investigation into their whereabouts in 2000.
"I told them that I would repair the clock free of charge," said Harvey Webber. "They turned me down because they said I didn't have insurance."
Robert Webber said if the town doesn't change its mind and decides to sell the clock, he will buy it.
"Not only will I buy it, but I will fix it and give it back to the town," he said. "That will make them look foolish."
If Webber gets the selectmen's approval, he will set up a fund-raising committee, he said.
It will be made up of former Selectman Vic Lessard, Jack Lessard and Jerry Dignam.
The group recently helped raise $20,000 for a new playground at Marston School.
Several town residents, including Nathan Page, have said they also want to save the clock.
"I received a lot of phone calls from residents who are upset because they believe that I was the one who suggested auctioning the clock off," said Page. "That's not the case; I wanted to give it to the historical society."
Page said he had the idea several years ago to repair the clock and put it on a free-standing monument.
Now, he says, he would like to join forces with the fund-raising committee to save the clock.