Five Street Clocks
Boston Landmarks Commission
Report of the Boston Landmarks Commission
on the potential designation of
FIVE STREET CLOCKS
as Landmarks under Chapter 772 of the Acts of 1975, as amended
1.0 LOCATION OF THE PROPERTY
4.0 ECONOMIC STATUS
5.0 PLANNING CONTEXT
6.0 ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES
8.0 SPECIFIC STANDARDS AND CRITERIA
1.0 LOCATION OF THE PROPERTY
1.1 Addresses of Clocks Nominated for Designation:
1.) 342 West Broadway, South Boston
Ward 4, Precinct 6
2.) 439 Boylston Street, Boston
Ward 5, Precinct 6
3.) 333 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston
Ward 4, Precinct 7
4.) 9 Chelsea Street, East Boston
Ward 1, Precinct 3
5.) Peabody Square, Ashmont
Ward 17, Precinct 9
1.2 Addresses of Clocks Not Nominated for Designation:
1.) 1068 Boylston Street, Boston
Ward 4, Precinct 6
2.) 696 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
Ward 19, Precinct 6
3.) North Market Street, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Ward 3
1. 342 w.Broadway, South Boston
2. 439 Boylston Street
3. 333 Massachusetts Avenue
4. 9 Chelsea Street, East Boston
5. Peabody Square, Ashmont
*6. 696 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
*7. 1068 Boylston Street
*8. North Market Street, Faneuil Hall
2.0 DESCRIPTION OF PROPERTY
2.1 Clocks Nominated for Designation:
342 W. Broadway – the clock, erected c. 1870, stands in front of the Clock Tavern and has a panelled base and a fluted Corinthian post, broken at various points by torus moldings. Both base and post are cast iron. The base is labelled “E. Howard & Co., Boston”. The wooden head is currently under repair. The crown over the head is squared off with scrolls and vents on the sides. The vents were required because the two clear glass faces were originally gas lit at night. The east face and hands’are intact and will be reused while the west face and hands will be refurbished. Both faces have Roman numerals. On the rim of the clockhead, across from the numerals “V” and “VII”, are winged scrolls and pinwheels.
439 Boylston Street – the clock, standing in front of a branch office of Capitol Bank, was erected between 1911 and 1918. The clock has a panelled base and fluted Doric post, broken at various points by torus moldings. The base, post and head are cast iron,painted green. The clock is in working order, has a white face and black Roman numerals and hands. Across from the numerals V and VII are scrolls and pinwheels. On the face of the clock are the words “maintained by Capitol Bank and Trust Company” and at the base “E. Howard & Co., Boston”.
333 Massachusetts Avenue – the corner of Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues, in front of Symphony Plaza Towers, is the location for a clock similar in design to the one at 439 Boylston Street. This clock, however, is painted black and has a Corinthian, not Doric, post. It is in working order and is labelled “E.” Howard & Co., Boston”.
9 Chelsea Street – this clock was erected between 1905 and 1918 and originally stood in Scollay Square, in front of Tremont Row on Court Street. The clock was moved to East Boston where it is located in the parking lot of Rapino’s Funeral Home. The clock has a panelled base and fluted Corinthian post, interrupted at various points by torus moldings. The base, post, head and crown are cast iron, painted black. The clock is in working order and has a black face, gold Roman numerals and hands. The crown is ogee shaped with winged scrolls and the letter “R” at the center. There are additional scrolls at the sides of the crown. Across from the numerals V and VII are scrolls and pinwheels.
Peabody Square – the clock, erected 01909, stands on a small triangular piece of land at the in66rsection of Dorchester Avenue, Ashmont Street and Buoilim.44–S-t-reet. It is the only architect – designed clock still standing, a creation of William Downes Austin of Boston. Designs for the other Howard clocks were provided by the company. The clock is constructed of cast iron, painted green. Its four faces are now black with gold Roman numerals and hands; originally the faces were white with black numerals and hands. Unlike the other clocks, this one has a square continuous shaft which is wider at the bottom than at the top (The other clocks have distinct square bases and round posts). Elaborate leaf designs surround the faces and under each side of the VI is a dog’s head. The clock is topped by a pineapple and is taller and grander than the others in the city. It will be restored to working order.
2.2 Clocks Not Nominated for Designation:
1068 Boylston Street – this clock was constructed by the Kenneth Lynch Co. of Wilton, Connecticut and erected in 1979 at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street. It is a reproduction of a Howard design and is very similar to the clock now in East Boston except that its proportions are squatter, and the pinwheels at its neck are absent. Made of black cast iron, the clock has a white face, black Roman numerals and hands. At the top of the crown is a coin picturing Benjamin Franklin; this coin is the logo of the Mutual Bank, in front of which the clocks stands. The clock is not nominated for Landmarks designation because it is not an original Howard design.
696 Centre Street – erected in 1930, the clock is located in front of a branch office of the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank. The base and post of this clock are identical to those of the Chelsea Street clock in East Boston. Originally, the Centre Street clock had a Howard head, but in 1956 it was replaced by an EMI Time Company head with a long neck, plain white face and black Arabic numerals. Mounted on the neck and surrounding the head was a big V (symbolic of the five of the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank) and atop the clock was a sign that said “The Boston Five”. Presently the clock is not in working order: it has no hands. The big V and the sign topping the clock are missing and the long neck is now surrounded by four thin posts. The clock’s substantial alterations make it ineligible for Landmarks designation.
North Market Street – set up in front of J.J. Donovan’s in 1980, when the clock was approximately ten years old, the clock has a rectangular panelled base, a fluted Doric post, and a round head which is topped by an eagle with spread wings. The clock was made of cast iron, painted green by the Brown Street Clock Co. of Monessen, Pennsylvania. It has a white face, black hands and Arabic numerals. It is not eligible for Landmark designation because it is not a Howard design, it is not from the Boston area and it has been at its present site for only three years.
3.0 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROPERTY
3.1 Historic Significance:
The manufacturing of clocks was one of the earliest and most important of American industries. Before 1800, clockmaking was an individual effort; each clockmaker constructed a few clocks with hand tools and no two were exactly alike. Between 1800 – 60, machine methods were introduced and a number of clock productions occurred solely in the factories. The industry was controlled by a small number of firms and their line greatly increased.
The post clocks studied in this report were manufactured by the E. Howard Clock Co. of Boston. Although other factories had a higher level of production, the Howard name became associated with fine quality and craftsmanship, especially in the manufacturing of watches. The company, existing today under the name of Howard Clock Products, Inc., still manufactures a limited number of their classic clock models although post clocks are no longer made. Production now focuses on clock and watch components as well as parts for aircrafts and electrical instruments.
The founder of the company, Edward Howard, was born in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1813. At age 16, he became an apprentice to Aaron Willard, Jr., whose family was well known in the clockmaking trade. While working for Willard, Howard met another apprentice, David P. Davis, and in 1842 the two of them went into business with a third man, Luther Stephenson in 1847. They operated together until their company bankrupted in 1857.
Howard and Davis’ business produced a line of house, office, bank and tower clocks with weight-driven movements in the traditional Willard pattern. They also made regulators, and clocks for railroads and jewellers, as well as scales for banks and balances for druggists. In the late 1840’s, Howard and a friend, Aaron Dennison, became interested in producing watches using factory methods, automatic machinery and interchangeable parts. Prior to this time, no two watches were alike and making parts for repair occurred on a trial and error basis. In 1850, Howard, Dennison and Davis backed by Samuel Curtis, established, in Roxbury the first watch factory in America. The venture was unsuccessful for several reasons
A great deal of time and money was invested in experimentation involving an eight-day watch. it proved to be an unreliable timekeeper and the firm had to change to a thirty-six hour model. Space constraints required the partners to move their factory to Waltham in 1854. The new building, and the tooling it required, posed a financial hardship. The panic of 1857 finally forced the sale of the watch factory to Royal E. Robbins and the business evolved into the Waltham Watch Company. Howard, Dennison and Davis parted company.
In 1859 Howard re-entered the business world. At his firm of E. Howard & Co. on 17 Washington Street in Roxbury, Howard manufactured clocks and a line of watches more suited to his taste than produced in Waltham. The firm changed its name to the Howard Clock and Watch Company in 1861 and later, in 1881, to the E. Howard Watch and Clock Company. Howard retired the following year. Since the early 1860’s all Howard clocks have carried the trademark “E. Howard and Co., Boston” including most of the cast iron street clocks in this study.
In 1903, the Keystone Watch Case Co. acquired the right to use the Howard name on its watches and moved the watch division of the company to Waltham. The E. Howard Clock Company and the E. Howard Watch Company operated separately until the early 1930’s when they were combined at the Waltham plant. In 1934 the company acquired its current name, Howard Clock Products, Inc. and has operated in Waltham ever since.
The Howard Company first manufactured street clocks on a regular basis in the 1860’s although some models had been introduced a few years earlier. One of the first in Boston stood on Brattle Street; its base and post are exactly like the one still standing today. The head is a slight variation of the clock now located
in East Boston.
The Howard clocks in this study were manufactured between 1870 and 1930 in Roxbury. The company continued production of street clocks until 1963. All that time Howard clocks could be found all over the country and as far as Japan. Additional sales offices were opened in New York and in Chicago.
The movements of the Howard Clocks were located in their bases and were originally weight-driven. The weight on each block was attached to a wire rope which wound around a drum at the top of the base. The force of the weight, pulling on the rope, powered the gears of the mechanism. A shaft running up the post of the clock connected the mechanism to the gears which turned behind the hands. The weight-driven mechanism has been replaced by an electric motor in all the clocks currently working.
\Street clocks were first erected prior to the time inexpensive pocket watches were available to the general populace. Street clocks were not only importnat as timekeekers but often served as advertisements for the businesses that erected them in front of their stores. For example, the clock at 439 Boylston Street originally stood in front of the Otis Clapp & Sons pharmacy and had a crown bearing that name.
3.2 Architectural Significance:
In addition to their significance as forms of advertisement or as products of a well-known clock manufacturer, these clocks are important as examples of both 19th and early 20th century street furniture and cast iron workmanship. The clocks, often placed in areas of commercial prominence or nature, were meant to be showpieces and attention getters. Although the Howard Company produced many street clocks, they have become increasingly rare due to vandalism, lack of maintenance and auto accidents. As well as being handsome timepieces, the clocks still standing illustrate the more human-sized scale of the past. When repaired and maintained, they can serve the same purpose as they did one hundred years ago.
3.3 Relationship to the Criteria for Landmarks Designation:
The post clocks nominated for Landmark status meet the criteria for designation as landmarks as established in Section 4, Chapter 772 of the Acts of 1975, in that they are objects that:
1.) are representative of elements of architectural craftsmanship which embody distinctive characteristics of a type inherently valuable for the study of a period.
2.) are notable for their cast iron craftsmanship, the high quality of their mechanisms and the care devoted to their design. In addition, the Howard Company, although local, had a national reputation. The clocks are also significant as a form of street furniture and represent a period of history before watches were commonly worn. They were effective advertising devices and at one time stood as a common but now fast disappearing part of the urban landscape.
4.0 ECONOMIC STATUS
4.1 Current Assessed Value:
The clocks are not taxable and therefore no assessments have
4.2 Current Ownership and Status of Clocks Nominated for Designation:
1. Location – 342 West Broadway, South Boston.
Owner – Joseph Sharkin, proprietor of the Clock Tavern. Status – The Howard Company has estimated that the
repair cost for the clock would be $17,500 and
will be paid for by the Browne Fund.
2. Location – 439 Boylston Street, Boston.
Owner – Due to sidewalk configuration the Marshall
Sloan Company is the owner;the company also owns
the Sloane Building at 437 Boylston Street.
Status The clock is maintained by Capitol Bank and is in working order.
3. Location – 333 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston.
Owner – The City of Boston.
Status – Maintained by State Street Development, the developer of the Symphony Plaza Towers, the clock is in working order.
4. Location – 9 Chelsea Street, East Boston.
Owner – Rapino’s Funeral Home.
The clock is in working order and is maintained
by the funeral home.
5. Location – Peabody Square, Ashmont.
Owner – The City of Boston.
Repair costs are estimated at $2,500 and will
be covered by the Browne Fund.
4.3 Current Ownership and Status of Clocks not Nominated for Designation:
1. Location – 1068 Boylston Street, Boston.
Owner – Mutual Bank
Status – Maintained by the bank, the clock is in working
2. Location – 696 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain.
Owner – Boston Five Cents Savings Bank
Status – The clock is maintained by Boston Five.
3. Location – Faneuil Hall, Boston.
Owner – Rouse Company
Status – Maintained by the Rouse Company, the clock works.
5.0 PLANNING CONTEXT
The clocks stand in their original positions, with two exceptions: the clock in East Boston which originally stood in Scollay Square, and the Faneuil Hall clock imported from Pennsylvania.
According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the clock at the corner of Huntington and Massachusetts Avenues has always been located at this site. The clock was place in storage during the construction of Symphony Towers and was reinstalled upon completion of that project. Seven of the eight Boston streetclocks were erected by private parties.
The City of Boston was responsible for erecting only one clock – at Peabody Square – and later assumed ownership of the clock at 333 Massachusetts Avenue. In 1896, City Council voted to name the square in Dorchester after Colonel Oliver Peabody, founder of Kidder and Peabody and Company and benefactor of All Saints, the Episcopal church across from the square. Peabody had donated the square for the protection of the church. The clock was added to this land in 1909.
Before a clock is erected on a sidewalk which is City property a permit must be issued. Only two clocks are located on sidewalks owned by the City – at 342 W. Broadway and 696 Centre Street. The fees accompanying the permits have been paid by Paul Sharkin, owner of the Clock Tavern, and the Boston Five Cents Saving Bank. All other Howard clocks are set back a minimum of ten feet from the street and thus a permit of ownership is not required. The Faneuil Hall clock is located on property leased by the Rouse Company for ninety-nine years.
5.2 Current Planning Issues:
The Boston Art Commission is currently working towards restoring the two broken clocks at 342 West Broadway,and Peabody Square. The projects will be paid for by the Edmund Ingersoll Browne Fund, whose annual income is applied to the adornment and benefit of Boston “by the erection of statues, monuments, fountains… and for the ornament of its streets, ways, squares„ parks in such a manner as will promote the pleasure, comfort, education, patriotism and good taste of its citizens.”
West Broadway is one of the nine areas targeted for public improvements by the NDEA. The plan, devised by the Urban Design Division, calls for new sidewalks, light fixtures, trees, trash receptacles, benches, a kiosk and the restoration of the Howard clock.
The remaining six clocks are not in need of repair and are being maintained.
6.0 ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES
Both the significance of the objects and the statute, which precludes all but Landmark designation in the central city, limit the designation category to that of landmark.
In spite of eligibility for designation, the Commission may choose not to designate the clocks as landmarks.
The only alternative protection device would be inclusion of the clocks on the National Register of Historic Places, which would, if successfully pursued, afford a limited degree of protection.
6.2 Landmark designation under Chapter 772, as amended, would
require the review of physical changes to the clocks (and site) in accordance as part of the designation.
Not designating the clocks would mean the City could offer no protection or guidance to present or future owners.
The staff of the Boston Landmarks Commission recommends that five post clocks be designated as Landmarks under the provisions of Chatper 772 of the Acts of 1975, as amended.
The clocks, located at 342 West Broadway, 439 Boylston Street, 333 Massachusetts Avenue, 9 Chelsea Street and Peabody Square, are all native to Boston, manufactured by the Howard Clock Company, and represent a variety of Howard designs and clockmaking techniques.
The standards and criteria recommended for administering the regulatory functions provided for in Chapter 772, as amended, are attached as section 8.0.
8.0 SPECIFIC STANDARDS AND CRITERIA Street Clocks at the following locations:
1. 342 West Broadway, South Boston
2. 439 Boylston Street, Boston
3. 333 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston
4. 9 Chelsea Street, East Boston
5. Peabody Square, Ashmont
1.) Clocks at 342 West Broadway, Peabody Square, 439 Boylston Street and 333 Massachusetts Avenue are located at their original sites. They are integral parts of the streetscape, are important to the history of the areas in which they are located and should not be removed, although relocation to a similar site on the same block may be considered.
2.) The clock at 9 Chelsea Street is not on its original site; therefore, if ever proposed to be relocated, the limit of relocation should be within the East Boston neighborhood.
3.) The clock at 9 Chelsea Street stands in a parking lot. To prevent damage to the clock a protective barrier, which does not prevent access
to the clock or obstruct it from view, could be erected around it.
BASE, POST, CASING
1.) All alterations, other than normal repair and maintenance involving no change to materials, design, or color, must be reviewed and approved.
2.) Any cleaning must be done with non—abrasive cleaners except on cast iron.
3. Regular maintenance including painting should be done to prevent rust or water damage.
4.) Appropriate paint colors, or other finishes, should be selected: black or dark hues were customary.
CLOCK FACE & LETTERING
1.) To continue the tradition of post clocks as advertising devices, existing or original lettering must be repaired and retained.
2.) If new lettering is proposed, the location and typeface should closely resemble existing or period graphics. Halo, gilt, or crown shaped devices as a field for lettering were typical of the period of construction and should be considered as possible additions.
3.) Replacement hands or numerals should match or evoke original designs.
1.) Existing illumination devices must be retained and their refurbishing is encouraged strongly. New illumination techniques should closely evoke quality and color and intensity of period lighting.
1.) Repair and replacement of early mechanisms is encouraged, although more modern mechanisms are considered appropriate.
1.) Design and materials of immediate vicinity of the clock must be sympathetic with and supportive of the clock’s design and/or original setting. The clocks traditionally were set directly on the sidewalk with little or no adornment. The exception is the Peabody Square clock set in a landscaped green.
Bailey, Chris. 200 Years of American Clocks and Watches. ( Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975.)
Boston Clock Club. Bulletins and Special Articles from January 13, 1934 to April 1, 1939.
Burton, Eric. Dictionary of Clocks and Watches (New York: Bonanza Books, 1963.)
Drepperd, Carl W. American Clocks and Watches. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1947.)
Illustrated Catalogue of Clocks. (Waltham, MA: The E. Howard Clock Co., n.d.)
Illustrated Catalogue of Clocks Manufactured by the Howard Watch Co. (Boston: J. B. Batchelder & Co., Steam Printers, 1874.)
Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York. Report on Sidewalk Clocks. Designation List 147, LP-1169-74,76, August 25, 1981.
Milham, Willis I. Time & Timekeepers. (New York: McMillan Co., 1923.)
Neighborhood Development Agency. W. Broadway Public Improvements. Preliminary Design Meeting, Boston, June 1, 1981.
Nutting, Wallace. Furniture Treasury (Mostly of American Origin): Being a record of designers, details of designs and structures with lists of clockmakers in America and a glossary of furniture terms, richly illustrated. (New York: McMillan Co., 1949.)
Palerm, Brooks. A Treasury of American Clocks. (New York: McMillan Co., 1967.)
Note: Gratitude is expressed to Debra Hilbert for collecting, researching, and preparing material for this Study Report. Thanks also goes to Mr. Dana Blackwell and Mr. Steven Abrahms, of the Howard Clock Products Co., for their help.