Centre School Proposed as Site for Town Clock

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Timepiece Could be Repaired in Six Months

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, June 18, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The town center in 1988 during the 350th anniversary of the town of Hampton, 1638 - 1988, showing the Town Clock in the steeple of the Odd Fellows Building, which burned on January 27, 1990.

HAMPTON -- Centre School could be the new home of a century old town clock that once stood atop the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Hampton until the wooden building was destroyed by fire in 1990.

Selectmen voted this week to place the clock on the grounds of the school on the recommendation of those who are working to repair it.

Former Selectman Cliff Pratt along with Harvey Webber and others have been working to repair the large timepiece that was severely damaged in the fire for the last five years.

"People ask me how long will it take," Pratt said. "I really don't know. It's a very interesting project. The clock is 150 years old. It sustained extreme temperatures and dropped 40 feet."

The parts, which were retrieved from the charred remains, had been collecting dust for more than a decade.

Pratt said they have tracked down parts from other broken clocks and worked hard to polish and buff all the workable parts. In some instances, Pratt said, they had to make new parts.

"We hope to have it running in six or seven months," he said.

Pratt said after it is completed they would like to see the clock in front of Centre School because it's closest to downtown Hampton.

Selectmen agreed the school would be a good place for the clock. The board's vote, however, is contingent on working with the school district to see who would have the responsibility of long-term maintenance and insurance.

Other locations looked at included the Tuck Museum and the fire station on Winnacunnet Road.

Pratt said they already have funds to construct a structure to house the clock.

Hampton native Ronald Bourgeault, president of Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, established a $30,000 fund to support the project in honor of veterans and the late Robert Webber.

Robert Webber, along with his son Harvey, were the first to get involved in the project after selectmen threatened to sell the old parts, saying it would cost too much to repair the clock.

The father and son team offered to repair the clock at no cost to the town.

Pratt said they would like to use those funds to construct a 14 by 12 structure with reinforced glass to house the clock.

"That way people can walk around it and see how it works," Pratt said.

The clock was originally given to the town as a gift in 1897 from John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass. At the time, the town made a promise when it accepted the clock to keep it in good working order.

The Town Clock Face in storage

The Town Clock Bell in storage.
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