Boyertown seeks to restore historical bell tower clock by forming foundation

Photo by Lynn Gladieux
Photo by Lynn Gladieux

July 10, 2014 at 2 p.m. will mark the 94th anniversary of the first operation and bell strike of Boyertown’s iconic Bell Tower Clock, located at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 35 West Philadelphia Avenue, Boyertown.

To honor the anniversary, members of the Boyertown community are rallying to restore the clock, which has fallen into severe disrepair over the years.

The clock and bell tower have significant historical value. Said to be the second-oldest bell in the U.S., the original was notably hung in the belfry of the Union Church, now the site of National Penn Bank at the corner of Philadelphia and Reading Avenues. In 1920, the steeple was torn down and the bell removed, making way for the construction of the new bell tower.

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The clock, made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company of New York, was driven by weights, one for each of the gear and strike trains. These weights, totaling nearly one-half ton, traversed a distance of 49 feet in one week before needing to be wound again.

Until 1946, maintenance of the clock was paid for by members of the Church of the Good Shepherd. But in April of that year, with the weight cables and mechanics worn by time, the clock was turned over to the Boyertown community. In order to cut down on costly maintenance, which was now being borne by the Boyertown taxpayer, the clock movement was changed to electric.

Today, the clock and bell tower stand tall against the Boyertown sky, reminding residents of its long and storied history. The presence of the tower is a constant focal point for the town’s citizenry and reminds residents and visitors alike of the strength, diversity and perseverance of the Boyertown community.

While the clock and bell for years tolled the dawning of Sunday services and welcomed home Boyertown’s many war heroes, it now stands silent, its mighty sound silenced. Years of exposure to the elements has caused deterioration both inside and outside the open tower and structure, with damage to the dials, hands and mechanical gearing of each of the four faces of the clock.

An analysis by Muhlenberg Greene Architects (MGA) of Reading has determined the costs for repair will be significant, and a foundation has been formed to preserve this vital piece of Boyertown history. Anyone wishing to make an inquiry or donate to the foundation can contact Save Our Boyertown Clock Foundation at P.O. Box 138, Boyertown, PA 19512 or see us on Facebook.

Submitted by Lynn Gladieux