By Liz Premo, Atlantic News, Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, February 10, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News File Photo]
HAMPTON -- It took quite a licking, and with some newly-available financial help it should eventually start ticking once again.
Hampton's town clock, in pieces and in storage since a 1990 fire downtown destroyed the Odd Fellows Hall, is on the road toward restoration.
According to Elizabeth Aykroyd of the Heritage Commission and the Hampton Historical Society, "Selectman Ben Moore announced that a fund has been set up which will make available up to $30,000 for the restoration of Hampton's town clock."
The person responsible for starting up this fund is Hampton native Ronald Bourgeault, president of Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth.
Bourgeault, says Aykroyd, "has established Our New Hampshire Heritage Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in order to support historical projects such as restoring the badly damaged town clock."
The E. Howard Tower Round Top Clock was a gift to the town of Hampton in 1897 by John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass. The clock was situated in the tower of the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Hampton until the 1990 fire completely destroyed the building.
At the time, the damage to the clock was considered irreparable, and the parts soon went missing. A campaign was launched about 10 years later to locate them.
It was soon revealed that former Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Glen French had the clock in his possession for safekeeping, stored in five large wooden boxes. The boxes containing the warped, rusted and broken clock parts were eventually moved to the town office building for storage.
A $32,000 proposal to restore the clock was made in 2001 by David Graf of Tower Clock Repair and Restoration in Kittery Point. At the time, Hampton selectmen decided to put the proposal on the back burner after they determined that acting on the proposal would have likely involved a warrant article or a fundraising effort of private donations. The board suggested that the Heritage Commission or the Historical Society be contacted with regard to pursing the clock's restoration.
Last year, local antiques dealer Robert Webber offered to repair the clock as a gift to the town, according to Aykroyd. Webber passed away last fall, but the work on the clock is progressing under the supervision of Webber's son, Harvey.
Restoring the clock and finding it a permanent home will no doubt tug on many people's heart strings, especially those belonging to the person whose generosity is helping to make it all happen.
"Bourgeault said that the clock striking was the sound that meant home to Hampton Veterans returning from overseas, like his father and his brother, and that the town is poorer for the loss of that welcoming sound," states Aykroyd. "By his gift he wishes to honor all Veterans, especially Robert Webber, who was his mentor when he first started his antiques business."