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July 06, 2012

An Old Tower Clock Is Discovered Anew at Green Mountain College

Tower clock_3297smGreen Mountain College's Ames Tower was looking pretty shabby, so facilities director Glenn LaPlante was inspecting its domed cupola, airborne in a hydraulic lift, paint scraper in hand. And that's when he made an amazing discovery: a glass-encased, art deco clock, still in "excellent condition," LaPlante declared, despite a layer of 1960s-era paint.

It was time to call in an expert and, as it happens, there was one nearby. Joe Duffy operates, with his brother, Christopher, Church Specialties right in Poultney. Their specialty? Church bell and clock tower restoration. The college contacted Joe Duffy to come and look at their clock, which he determined is a Telechron model.

Inventor Henry Warren established the Telechron company in Ashland, Mass., in 1912 and made battery-powered clocks. Three years later, he invented a "self-starting, synchronous motor consisting of a rotor and coil," reports college spokesman Kevin Coburn. When Warren retired in 1943, General Electric absorbed the business, and clocks labeled "Telechron" or "General Electric" were made in the Ashland plant.

In fact, it's still operating. Duffy got in touch and agreed to deliver the GMC clock to Ashland.

He said it could be functional again with a new motor and some "superficial cleaning," says Coburn.

Why was the clock painted over? No one at the school remembers. "The Ames building was dedicated in 1908, and photos show a clock, but it couldn't have been this one," Coburn says. "We think in the 1930s it was replaced with the Telechron, and painted in the ’60s." And then, everyone simply forgot about it.

Coburn says the clock should be returned in about three weeks and once again will tick off the minutes in the life of a small Vermont college. "We want it in place when students arrive the third week in August," he notes.

Just in the nick of time.

Photo courtesy of Green Mountain College

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