Hatboro seeks more time for clock restoration

By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer

Time has nearly run out for a grant secured to restore Hatboro’s most prized historical asset.

For years, citizens worked with Hatboro government and the Millbrook Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to historical preservation, to gain funds to restore Lukens Clock at Borough Hall.

“It’s not running. It hasn’t been working in so many years,” Toni Kistner, a member of the Lukens Clock Restoration Committee, said. “It’s just been sitting.”

The clock was designed by Isaiah Lukens, a Hosham native, and installed in 1812. It was one of about 10 large-scale clocks Lukens built in his life. He even once built a clock for Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

After previous attempts, in 2013 the Lukens Clock Restoration Committee resubmitted an application to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. With a more detailed application, they were able to secure a $25,000 Keystone Historic Preservation grant that Hatboro would have to match. The project was estimated to cost about $51,000 and take six months to complete.

The Millbrook Society headed fundraising for the project. Coupled with efforts by the Restoration Committee, the group was able to raise most of the money through private donations from citizens and businesses. In January of last year, the borough contributed almost $4,000 to complete fundraising.

That spring, Borough Council voted to place the restoration work in the hands of Keith Winship, who owns Winships’ Pieces of Time in Hatboro. The logistics of making the contract held up the start of the restoration, Kistner said.

“We signed the contract in October, but the grant apparently only extends to March,” Winship said. “The timing of the contract wasn’t especially good for us to jump in and get started.”

Pieces of Time’s busiest months are November and December, when there’s a long line of customer requests for holidays.

“We typically have about 200 customer clocks in our shop at a time so we can’t just drop that,” he said.

So work really didn’t begin until Jan. 11, when the hands were removed from the clock tower face. The years before, time stood still at 2:05.

The next step was to separate the two 400-pound weights that drove the clock mechanism. They had to lift the weights off and secure them to the building. This week, Winship is hoping to start complete disassembly of the iron and brass mechanism so it can be brought into the shop to start restoration.

“We have to disassemble it and bring it out piece by piece,” he said.

Completion of the project will take more time than the grant, which expires in March, will allow. But Hatboro Borough Council voted on Jan. 30 to seek a one-year extension for the project grant.

The vote did pass unanimously, but, according to Council President John Zygmont, “The extension will probably be granted, but nothing is certain until we receive the approval.”

In the meantime, Winship will continue the work as planned.

“It still is our goal to have it done for the 300th anniversary of Hatboro,” Winship said. “I see no reason that there should be any issue.”