What time is it?

First Posted: 8/19/2014

It was on May 6 that the clock on the Waverly Community House came to a halt after 95 years of dedicated service.

Notable architect George M. D. Lewis had been commissioned to build the Waverly Community House (Comm) as a memorial to Henry Belin Jr. by Belin’s widow in 1919. He included the clock tower, which has become a symbol of Waverly and a beloved focal point for the community. The clock was built by the esteemed Seth Thomas, whose clock company also built the four-faced clock that sits in the Grand Concourse of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal.

The clock has been hand-wound by Comm staff every few days for nearly a century. It works without electricity on a system based on gravity, weights, pulleys and gears and is one of only a few originals remaining in all of the Northeast.

“Decades of dust and grease combined to create a sand paper-like consistency that eventually ground down the teeth of the gears,” explained Maria Wilson, Waverly Community House Executive Director. “We investigated nationally to find someone with the skills to repair the clock and were able to locate Alain Androuais. He is a Frenchman who came in from St. Louis. He spent hours one day in June, inspecting the inner workings and making recommendations.”

Androuais presented as a passionate, highly skilled technician in this unique, and surely dying, craft. He is called into communities that truly cherish the history encased in their original clocks. He has restored clocks at The Smithsonian, Georgetown University and the 1881 clock that was brought back to life on the Whaling Museum of Nantucket.

His work is so specialized and respected that communities often go to great pains to utilize his skills. For example, he made a quote to restore a clock on a church in Amherst, Mass., nearly 20 years ago. The church secretary called him back just recently, the community having finally raised the funds to complete the project.

Androuais explained that there are two ways to proceed. One is to restore the clock to work as it was designed and intended 95 years ago. The other is to add an electrical component to make it work automatically. Restoring the clock to its original functioning will cost nearly $28,000 and take three months from start to finish. The electric version will be done over several days and cost close to $16,000.

These estimates will be presented to the Comm House, the grounds committee and the finance committee which are comprised of members of the Comm’s Board of Trustees, volunteers from the community, many with expertise and knowledge and all with the best interests of the Comm and the community in mind. They will determine if further estimates are needed. Their recommendations will then be presented to the full board of trustees for a vote early this fall.

“The clock tower is a symbol of the Comm and the centerpiece of the community,” Wilson said. “People care about it. Restoring it will be an act of affection for a building in the community that everyone loves.”

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