By Steve Jusseaume, Hampton Union Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 26, 2000
next to one of the faces of the Odd Fellows Hall clock at the
downtown inn recently. The face was turned over to the town last week.
[Staff photo/Steve Jusseaume]
HAMPTON -- A flurry of activity last week has resulted in the location and re-acquisition of all four faces of the old Town Clock that once graced the tower of the Odd Fellows Hall on Lafayette Road, as well as some information on the whereabouts of the clock's inner workings.
Since Selectman Bonnie Searle inquired about the location of the clock last month, three faces and a bell were discovered in a back barn at the Highway Department headquarters. On Thursday DPW workers retrieved the fourth face -- by all accounts the face in the best condition — from Lamie's Inn & Tavern, where it has been stored since fire ravaged the Odd Fellows Hall 10 years ago.
In addition, in response to repeated calls from Town Manager James Barrington, former Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Glen French revealed that he knows where the cast iron clock mechanism is, though he has not yet revealed its exact location.
French admitted to the Atlantic News recently that the clock works have been in his possession since the January, 1990 fire.
"I am the only person who has had possession of this clock," French is quoted as saying. It is currently stored in someone's house in their garage."
Barrington said that French told him last week he knew where the clock works are, but refused to say exactly where.
"Mr. French told me he promised the person he wouldn't tell who had the mechanism." Barrington said. "So I asked him to have that person contact my office, but that hasn't happened yet."
French reportedly said that after the fire he asked then-Town Manager Phil Richards for the mechanism and Richards gave him the works. French also said he'd give the mechanism back to the town if and when someone finally had developed a plan for the clock. He also said the works were stored near his own Exeter residence for a short time, but are now somewhere in Hampton.
At last Monday's selectmen's meeting. Searle strongly urged that the Police Department begin an investigation into the whereabouts of the clock works. That suggestion didn't fly with the board, however.
Barrington said that according to French, the clock works are stored in five crates, each weighing about 100 pounds. Last week Barrington suggested that unless the works are returned to the town, criminal charges could be brought against anyone who knows where the mechanism is, but refuses to reveal its whereabouts.
That is still a possibility unless whoever has the works stops playing games and returns the town-owned property, one source within town government suggested.
In light of the recent activity regarding the clock, Lamie's co-owner Peter Morales called the town offices last week and told Barrington he located one of the clock faces in the basement. On Thursday, a DPW crew visited Lamie's and took the face to Highway Department headquarters, where it will be stored until officials decide what to do with the historic artifact.
"It's been 10 years, to be honest, and I forgot about it until just recently," Morales said.
He and co-owner Antonello Rizzo, recalled the fire that destroyed the Hall and almost the clock.
"It was a very cold night that night," Morales said last week, the six-foot diameter face leaning against the fireplace at Lamie's. "Antonello's sister, Maria, made coffee and food, and we went down to the fire. It was very tragic. The Odd Fellows Hall and the old clock was a dominant presence in town."
Morales added that shortly after the blaze an informal committee was set up to raise funds to fix the clock works, which had been damaged. The group even held a press conference at Lamie's to kick off a restoration drive, but no one expressed any interest at the time.
"The Chamber of Commerce was going to establish a fund," Morales said. "We had a kick-off event, but no businesses or individuals seemed interested. Nobody came forward with any support."
The clock face that Lamie's has been holding for the past decade is in the best shape of all four faces that adorned the Old Fellow Hall's steeple. The hands are intact, as are the letters that surround the face. Outside of a small area of fire damage on the back, the wood face is in excellent condition.
Morales was only too happy to return the face to the town.
"It's a piece of town history and belongs on view somewhere." he said. "We even had thoughts of building a tower here at Lamie's and mounting the restored clock in it, but it never happened."
Morales said he also wondered aloud how much Lamie's should charge the town for storage.
"Let's see, it's been 10 years, you could say it was abandoned property. I wonder how much of a storage fee we should charge." said Morales, a slight smile crossing his face.