TURN BACK TIME
Adjusting the clock no easy task at historic Chester County Courthouse
For most people, turning clocks back one hour was an automated task, but employees at the historic Chester County Courthouse had to climb the 60 stairs from the historic secondfloor courtroom into the cupola to change the time on the four faces of the county courthouse.
Dave Moore and Ron Brenneman took care of the task shortly before 8 a.m. Monday.
“It’s like a grandfather clock,” said Moore, who has worked for the county for the past 32 years. “You can’t turn it back; you actually have to go forward.”
To minimize the repetitive bell striking, Moore unhooked
the ringer that runs from the clock up to the 1836 J. Wilbank bell hanging 30 feet overhead.
“If we didn’t unhook the bell, we would get a lot of calls asking why the bell keeps ringing,” Moore said.
The electric drive was turned off as Brenneman manually turned the facing arm on one of the four clock faces. A series of interlocking gears connect each face to the clock mechanism.
The clock tower is loaded with history dating back to its construction in 1836 including legend of a ghost of one of the builders.
Various visitors and workers have left their names and marks on the bell, clock and tower over the years.
One written on the eastfacing glass face states: “Minute hand repaired March 27, 1974 by Meredith Cooper - Clerk of Courts”; another one written on the bell reads: “R. Carem 7,14,04.”
A 1966 story in the Daily Local News reported the
clock threw out baseballs at noon during a period of its long service.
John Abraham, facilities manager, said the clock is mainly maintenance free. He said Moore and Brenneman handle most periodic maintenance such as oiling gears. He said the county utilizes Rodgers Clock Service of Harrisburg for major repairs.
A phone call to Rodgers Clock Service was answered by Robert Rodgers Monday. His father Bert started the business in the 1940s “and I’m still at it.” The clock, he said, is not the original clock.
“My experience would tell me that clock would have been built by E. Howard Clock of Boston in the 1930s -1940s. It was a weight-driven clock. Originally, someone would have had to gone up weekly to wind the clock.”
He said two weights were involved. That would include a time weight, weighing 200 to 400 pounds, and a striker weight could have been 800 to 1,000 pounds.
He said the clock was built to be pulled by that weight, but now with electrification it is pushed, which lessens wear on the clock.
Chester County employee Ron Brenneman turns the clock faces on the Chester County Courthouse Monday to adjust for the end of daylight saving time.
Above, Chester County employee Ron Brenneman looks at the many names carved on the walls in the clock tower of the historic Chester County Courthouse, the exterior of which is pictured at left.
Chester County employee Dave Moore, left, checks the gears as Ron Brenneman turns the clock faces inside the clock tower of the historic Chester County Courthouse on Monday to adjust for the end of daylight saving time.