Street Clocks of Finger Lakes Country

AUBURN: This four-faced clock on Genesee Street was a gift to the city from the Auburn chapter of Rotary International. Including the height of its base, the clock is approximately 15 feet high.
story and photos by Rich Finzer

Like gold, a street clock (also known as a post clock or pedestal clock) is where you find it. Some are gifts from civic organizations to their communities. Others are erected to honor a late family member. Some are gifts from well-heeled individuals who, for whatever reason, are in love with the place where they live. Another group serves as advertising for high-end jewelry stores or banks. The rest are installed in public parks or other gathering places. But whatever the motivation, a street clock plus its accessories and installation may cost upwards of $50,000.

In May 2015, for example, the Auburn Chapter of Rotary International presented the city with a clock to honor its bicentennial and the centennial of the founding of the Auburn Rotary Chapter. While the Rotary spearheaded the effort, many individuals and companies lent their financial support as well. The clock is installed on Genesee Street. It’s a four-faced model with the full-color Rotary logo in the center of each dial.

Regardless of the enthusiasm of the private sector, every street clock installation will require the assistance of local government. See the sidebar on page 60 for more information.

In Auburn
This four-faced clock on Genesee Street (above) was a gift to the city from the Auburn chapter of Rotary International. Including the height of its base, the clock is approximately 15 feet high.

At the New York State Fairgrounds
Hidden in the middle of the fairgrounds, this clock was NOT built by Chevrolet. In fact there are no manufacturer’s markings on the clock. Two things set this clock apart: the clock post and clock body have a bronze-like color, and the font style used on the clock faces is unusual.

On Main Street in Canandaigua
This unique example of a street clock advertises a local bank. The bank’s corporate logo is clearly visible in the center of each face. Like others I’ve found, it is a Verdin Company model. The cube shape of the of the clock body that houses the four round faces is unusual.

In Sodus Point
It’s on Bay Street in the tiny village of Sodus Point. The two-faced street clock is different from the other nearly two-dozen others I’ve located and photographed are the images on the dials. Each side has different one.

In Lyons
At the corner of William and Church Streets, I discovered this Verdin model two-faced street clock. It’s relatively unadorned and hasn’t been there very long – the shine on the lettering is a dead giveaway. Like all Verdin Company clocks, the dials are backlit for nighttime viewing.

At Penn-Can Mall
When the mall opened in Cicero in 1976, this clock was installed in the central promenade, which is currently an auto dealership. What makes the clock unusual is that it has never suffered exposure to the harsh Upstate New York elements. The glass panels surrounding the clock face are as pristine as the day the clock was installed. The base is fitted with clear glass panels so that viewers can observe the geared clockwork and central shaft that drives the clock’s hands.

On the Ithaca College Campus
Located on the main quad of the Ithaca College Campus, this four-faced street clock was a gift from the Class of 2003. It is equipped with lighted dial faces and the name of the college is visible on each one. It’s not the largest street clock I’ve photographed, but as an IC grad, it’s one of my personal favorites.

In Fayetteville
In a shopping complex on Route 5 in Fayetteville is another Electric Time Company street clock. It closely resembles the one on the IC campus, although the clock body is green and gold-colored highlights surround each clock face. Traffic in that area is heavy – I have driven past the location dozens of times, but I have never noticed the clock before! It was cloudy the day I took this picture; the sun emerged just long enough for me to snap this photo.

On Main Street in Wolcott
This clock has no identification markings. The heavy-duty aluminum base means it may be an Electric Time model, but the Rotary International logo in the center of each clock face leads me to believe it may be a Verdin Company model. I showed this photo to a friend who chirped, “Did you have to include the bar sign?” I responded, “It was unavoidable, because directly behind me was a sign for another bar.” One thing I can state with certainty is this: if you get thirsty in Wolcott, it’s nobody’s fault but your own!

In North Syracuse
This four-faced clock – nearly identical to the model in Auburn, apart from its lack of a Rotary International logo, is located on Main Street. It was a gift to the village from descendants of the Fergerson family, one of the families who settled the area circa 1826. Verdin Company refers to this configuration as a “post clock” as opposed to street clocks.

In Liverpool
I found it “hidden” in Liverpool’s village square. Known as the Civic Pride Clock, it was jointly funded by local businesses and private citizens. It, too, is a Verdin Company model and a testament to the love and pride local residents have for their village.

At the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station
Painted green as opposed to the traditional black, this clock is located in Ithaca. It was installed in the 1960s when the old Lehigh Valley Railroad station became a restaurant. The clock’s hands don’t move – an oddity. The time is permanently set to mark the departure of the last Lehigh Valley Railroad train to leave the station. In 2007, the building became the “Station” branch of the Chemung Canal Trust Company.

In Seneca Falls
Street clocks are often used as advertising vehicles. This two-faced model is on Fall Street, installed in 2002. The Philadelphia-based company it was purchased from is no longer in business. What’s appealing is the use of classic Victorian-style numerals on the clock faces.

So…you want a Street Clock?

• The Zoning or Public Works Department will need to determine if a ready source of underground wiring is available.

• The Planning Department will need to help with site selection. An installation site should furnish sufficient sidewalk space to allow the clock to be installed while providing it with some level of protection from distracted drivers. Additionally the municipality may wish to site the clock in a neighborhood it is trying to highlight. Last, is the site large enough to accommodate post installation add-ons such as benches, fencing or protective bollards?

• Ultimately a successful street clock installation is the best form of a win-win; public/private partnership.

There are additional decisions to be made by the clock’s sponsors as well.

• If funding is in its initial stages, will the vendor supply an artist’s rendering or photograph of the clock type selected?

• Is the vendor capable of coordinating all phases of the clock’s acquisition and installation with local government?

• Is the vendor prepared to furnish trained personnel if post-installation repairs, replacement of original parts/adjustments to the clock are needed?

• Which vendor offers the longest service period and availability of original parts? Strictly as an example, Electric Time advertises that it will provide support and parts for any of its clocks for 80 years! (Try dragging your 1960 Desoto into the nearest Chrysler dealer and asking if it stocks any OEM spare parts. I’ll be listening for the laughter.)

• Last, obtaining competitive bids is the best method for your organization to ensure it’s receiving the biggest bang for the buck.

With the exception of the station clock in Ithaca, you’ll always know what time it was when you photographed a street clock! In this digital age, when everyone has instant access to the time of day, a street clock is a rather primitive but “timeless” analog reminder of days gone by.

Rich Finzer resides in Cayuga County. During his 46 years as a writer, he has published over 1200 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His gold medal-winning book; Maple on Tap is available through his publisher; Acres USA. His e-novels; Taking the Tracks, Dawn Toward Daylight and Julie & Me are available through Amazon Kindle.

Additional Resources
Electric Time Company, Inc.
The Verdin Company

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