MAXTON — The historic clock that is part of the logo of the town of Maxton is broken.
The landmark clock atop town hall, a building on the National Register of Historic Places, lost its east face during the April 15 storm that tore through Robeson County. The face was blown onto the street below. The pieces were saved, but the face will have to be replaced.
The original faces of the clock are all gone, except for one, which is split in half and sitting in the tower.
“The structure is a distinctive feature of the town,” said Kate Bordeaux, town manager. “It’s near and dear to a lot of residents. They have embraced it.”
“I’m not sure, but I think the plastic faces were installed in the 70s,” said Willis Sullivan, who maintains the clock. “This one had a bullet hole in it. I don’t think the face has ever fallen out before. There’s been damage before, but not like this.”
Plywood covers the hole where the clock face once was as repair plans are made.
“Over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit about the clock, and joined a national organization for people who work on clocks. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on this one, and to explore it,” Sullivan said.
Replacing this bit of history isn’t expected to take too long or cost much.
“It shouldn’t be too hard to make, as it’s about a 4-foot diameter piece,” Sullivan said. “They’ll have to get the numbers to put on there. I imagine it will cost $250 to $300. It will probably be the end of May before it’s complete.”
Sullivan said the clock has been a big part of Maxton’s history.
“I grew up in Maxton, and the clock was part of everyday life. You could hear it all over town. When it came 12 o’clock, the clock would strike, and the police chief would ride around in his Hudson Hornet,” Sullivan said. “The clock was part of growing up here.”
Interstate 95 motorists often make a quick trip to town just to see the clock and building, Bordeaux said.
“We have a lot of folks here from the North,” she said. “They say it’s very similar to the Flatiron Building in New York.”
The clock has stopped before because of problems with the original mechanism that powered it.
“People used to say, ‘I’ll meet you at the clock.’ It’s a town landmark, an architectural gem,” Sullivan said. “It’s technically called a E. Howard round top, and it was powered by weights. The clock, built in 1911, required a person to climb up to the tower once a week to wind up the weights that were used to power the clock. There were two sets of weights; one to keep the time, and one to strike the clock.”
Architect Clint Parrish designed the Maxton structure to resemble the Flatiron Building in New York City. The Patterson Building, named for the builder, housed the Bank of Robeson. The clock was added in 1911 through a public donation drive a year after the building’s construction. When the Depression hit, the bank failed. Over time the structure housed a branch of the U.S. Postal Service, a laundry, and business offices.
The building was bought and refurbished in the 90s. Now the building is owned by Preservation North Carolina, and leased to the town for $1 a year.
Bordeaux is working with the North Carolina Historical Society to preserve the building.
“We owe so much to the people that came before us. Over a lot of years, leaders and the people of the town have wanted to preserve the building,” she said. “They deserve for us to take care of it for them.”
A building on the National Register of Historic Places can be preserved, but the replacement pieces must be of the same year and material as the original structure.
“We have to look to the state for help,” Bordeaux said.
Maintenance became an issue for the clock in the late 1940s, when electricity was introduced to power the device. Electricity took away the need for someone to climb the tower to make a weekly inspection. Clocks in other communities would grind themselves out of condition, and the Maxton clock is no different. Now, people with appreciation for old clocks, like Sullivan, work to keep these clocks chiming.
“Mr. Sullivan has impressed upon the town the importance of maintenance of the clock and tower. We’ve placed $3,000 in the budget to maintain the clock, clean the dome, take care and to preserve the tower,” Bordeaux said.
“It’s an architectural treasure, and I hope to be able to maintain it,” Sullivan said.
Reach David Bradley at 910 416-5182 or [email protected]