Telling time downtownVolunteerrenews oldbank clock

A1: Clock story

By ERIK STEIGHNER

News Staff Writer

Throughout the morning last Monday, a 90-year-old Hood River landmark received a facelift -- literally.

Portlander Art Thompson scrambled along a scaffold as he attached the eastern face of the public clock at the International Museum of Carousel Art during the course of repairs to the venerable object.

Thompson donated roughly $2,500 in parts and labor as he repaired the clock, which hasn't functioned for over a decade.

He clocked onto the project after Sharon Harvey took on the restoration of the clock as a community endeavor, enlisting the help of downtown merchants as she formed a committee to address possible improvements. The old timepiece had sentimental value to Harvey -- she could remember a time when she and her schoolmates would use it as a rendezvous point.

"She deserves a lot of recognition for taking the initiative," said Duane Perron, owner of the Museum.

The process hit a snag early on -- bids for repairs ran as high as $20,000, and it was clear that an alternative course of action was needed. Luckily, board member Thompson undertook the project and was able to complete the same repairs for a fraction of the estimated cost.

The large timepiece was produced by the O.B. McClintock Company in 1910. Its case is copper over iron, with a stained glass and art panels on its underside bearing the name of the former First National Bank.

Its original system functioned until the 1960s, when wiring began to deteriorate. To make matters more complicated, bank employees would occasionally forget to wind the machine. The clock was updated in the 1970s with low-quality modern motors and an electronic chime, but those improvements had failed by the 1990s.

The Museum moved into the building in 1999, and plans were bandied about regarding possible work on the clock.

"We decided to restore the clock since downtown Hood River is converting back from retail to trendy tourist trade," said Thompson. "It looked shabby with a clock that didn't work."

Perron wanted to preserve a "quaint old-time sort of thing," so Thompson was careful to respect the landmark's original charm.

"We decided, as much as we could, to make it look and function as it originally did," said Thompson.

Still, some improvements could strike one as distinctly modern. The clock was overhauled with a combination of high quality modern components and replicas of the original parts.

Along with the new carillon control, a CD-rom with MIDI music files will be used to play chime tunes with approximately an adjustable one-block sound radius, and makes it easy for the sound to be turned off at night. It also allows for special seasonal music around Christmas and other holidays.

"This is the only public clock in the (downtown) that's functioning," said Perron. "We hope that this one lasts another hundred years, if we can get the funds to repair its case."

Indeed, the clock's stained glass and framework are rapidly deteriorating, and Thompson predicted that an ice storm could potentially bring it down. With that in mind, the museum is seeking financial support to preserve the historic downtown landmark.

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