Fa­ther-son team re­pair­ing clock at his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - BUSINESS - Chelsey Lewis Mil­wau­kee Journal Sen­tinel USA TODAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

It has taken three years, but the street clock out­side the Mil­wau­kee County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety will soon be telling time again.

The cen­tury-old clock was in­stalled out­side the so­ci­ety on Kil­bourn Ave. in 2001. It stopped work­ing in 2014, and the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety strug­gled to find some­one who could re­pair it.

“It’s re­ally a lost art,” said Mame McCully, the so­ci­ety’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

Af­ter the Mil­wau­kee Journal Sen­tinel wrote an ar­ti­cle about the clock, the so­ci­ety re­ceived calls from as far away as Texas with peo­ple of­fer­ing to help fix it.

“We could not be­lieve the in­ter­est that was spurred,” McCully said.

But it was a Mil­wau­kee fam­ily that proved to be the clock’s sav­ior.

“I called them up and said, ‘Can we come and look at the clock, we’d like to try and fix it,’ ” said Keith Seib, who owns Planet Bead, 710 N. Mil­wau­kee St.

In ad­di­tion to sell­ing all man­ner of beads — from cen­turies-old European neck­laces to Swarovski crys­tals — Seib and his son, Zachary, re­pair clocks, watches and mu­sic boxes.

Seib de­scribes the busi­ness as a “candy store” of beads and said the re-

pairs are mostly done through wordof-mouth.

They took the clock’s mo­tor and wooden pieces back to their shop to re­pair. On Mon­day, they primed the clock’s base in a rusty red, and the fol­low­ing day re­painted it to its orig­i­nal gold. Next they’ll re­in­stall the mo­tor, hands and glass face — an im­prove­ment from the old plas­tic face that was not true to the orig­i­nal clock and had yel­lowed over time. They’ll also re­place the light bulbs with more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED lights.

De­spite how much the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety strug­gled to find some­one to re­pair the clock, the Seibs said it wasn’t too dif­fi­cult to fix.

“I would say a lot of things that we fix ev­ery day are prob­a­bly more com­pli­cated,” Keith Seib said.

The 20-foot Seth Thomas-brand clock orig­i­nally stood in front of the Mil­ton H. Klopf jew­elry store at 2367 S. Kin­nick­in­nic Ave. in Bay View.

For­mer Mil­wau­kee Mayor Sher­burn Becker de­stroyed most of the city’s street clocks in 1906 un­der the pre­tense that they were ob­struct­ing side­walks, but re­ally be­cause the 26-yearold mayor thought they were old-fash­ioned. But a hand­ful of clocks, in­clud­ing Klopf’s, sur­vived.

When Klopf died in 1963, his wife donated the clock to the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. Its face was dis­played in the so­ci­ety’s gal­leries, but the base sat un­used out­side the build­ing un­til 2001.

Rueben McMunn, of the Mil­wau­kee Chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Clock Col­lec­tors, fixed the in­te­rior me­chan­ics, and the so­ci­ety in­stalled the com­pleted clock out­side.

It ticked along un­til stop­ping in April 2014. McMunn had passed away, so the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety sent the mo­tor away for re­pairs. It worked for a lit­tle while be­fore break­ing again.

When McCully joined the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety in July of that year, she was de­ter­mined to get the clock fixed.

The Seibs of­fered to fix the clock for lit­tle more than the cost of sup­plies — a more gen­er­ous of­fer than the $20,000 some­one else had sought for fix­ing it.

“(Keith’s) like, ‘I just want to see this clock run­ning,’ ” McCully said.


Zachary Seib paints the M.H. Klopf clock out­side the Mil­wau­kee County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety on Tues­day. The cen­tury-old clock stopped work­ing in 2014, and the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety strug­gled to find some­one to re­pair it.

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