By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, January 7, 2005
HAMPTON - Harvey Webber said when he first brought pieces of the century-old town clock to Webber's Antique Shop, it was definitely rusted and twisted but that was the least of its problems.
"Yes, it's rusted and twisted, but most of all it was not appreciated," said Webber, who is working to restore the clock to its former glory.
What has become a thorn in the side of many is becoming a rose bush, Webber said.
Two weeks ago, Webber began the restoration of the clock, which was almost destroyed in a 1990 fire at the Odd Fellows building.
Last week, Webber put the clock together for the first time."The good news is the clock is taking form and looking more like it is intended, as opposed to bent pieces spread all over town," Webber said.
The parts, which have been collecting dust for more than a decade after it was retrieved and disassembled from the wreckage of the fire, has been stored in Town Hall and at the Department of Public Works for the last three years.
The movement to fix the clock came up last year when selectmen were considering selling the old parts, saying it would cost too much to repair.
At the time, Webber's father, Robert, chastised selectmen for their decision and demanded that they give him a chance to repair the clock at no cost to the town.
Webber said he expects a lot of the damage to the clock parts was due to it being thrown in a crate and packed away for so long.
Last week he disassembled the clock and will now begin the process of refurbishing each part bit by bit.
"The fire at the Odd Fellows Building has coated the clock parts with a black carbon coating which we have removed after hours of polishing," said Webber. "Each part will still require many hours of sanding, buffing and polishing."
Webber said they may have to replace some parts that can't be repaired including the 10-foot pendulum rod which was burned to a crisp.
A friend of the family has offered to build a new rod, and Josh Ducharme is assisting in polishing the parts, Webber said.
"We are looking for some help in the form of local machine shops, and painting the side plate will be a chore," said Webber.
While he doesn't have a time frame to complete the project, Webber said one thing is for sure.
"The clock will be restored and it will look great," said Webber.
Webber said one of the reasons he didn't want to raise funds to restore the clock is because he wants to save that for when it comes time to find a place to put the clock.
"I was thinking how fabulous the clock would be in a 2½-story display house," said Webber, who said it could be constructed at the gazebo or Town Hall.
The clock was given to the town in 1897 by John T. Brown of Newburyport. The town made a promise when it accepted the clock to keep it in good working order.
"It could become a tourist attraction," said Webber. "It will be a part of Hampton's history and pride for the next 100 years. Its beauty will rival any beautification I can think of as well as provide the town with the ring that I have missed ever since it faded all those years ago."