For the first time in nearly two decades, the clock that sits atop a nearly 100-foot-tall tower at Woodfords Corner in Portland is keeping time again, and neighborhood residents couldn’t be happier.

Birch Shambaugh, co-owner of Woodford Food & Beverage, a restaurant across the intersection from the Odd Fellows Building, said he and his customers watched the restoration take place and were blown away with the results. Not only has the clock motor been repaired, but the faces have been restored and repainted and the clock tower is lit up at night.

“People who have lived here for a while uniformly were just freaking out because it had just never worked since they have lived here,” said Shambaugh, who noted how the clock looked on a recent evening after a thick fog rolled in. “The only thing you could see aside from headlights from cars on Forest Avenue was the clock tower looming above this cloud bank. It was awesome.”

The ambitious restoration project was spearheaded by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a nonprofit membership-based organization focused on community service.

The roughly $60,000 project was funded with money the group received by cashing out some stocks, said Ron Boucher, the IOOF’s financial secretary and president of the Odd Fellow Hall Co. of Deering, which oversees maintenance of the nearly 130-year-old building.

The clock has four faces atop a brick tower, which he estimated to be between 80 and 90 feet tall. The times on the clock faces are within a minute of one another, Boucher said. LED lights now illuminate the clock from the base.

“I’ve been in the lodge for 41 years and I have never seen it lit,” said the 66-year-old Boucher, noting that it’s been at least 18 years since the clock worked. “When it’s lit, this thing sticks out like a candle. It’s going to be good for Woodfords Corner when they do start to rebuild this.”

FIRST OF UPGRADES

The restoration is the first in a series of upgrades being planned for one of Portland’s most heavily traveled intersections.

The city of Portland and the Maine Department of Transportation have planned $2.6 million in upgrades to the five-way intersection, which on average sees more than 22,000 vehicles a day. The project includes building a public plaza in front of the Odd Fellows Building at 651 Forest Ave., as well as bike lanes and a new railroad crossing. Forest Avenue north of Ocean Avenue will be reconfigured to have two travel lanes in each direction. And curb extensions, or bump-outs, will be added to street corners to reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine said the project is on track to begin next year. MDOT is currently finalizing the plans and expects to put the project out to bid in the spring, he said.

“Hopefully the project will be done in 2017, (but) it is possible that it would go into early 2018,” Levine said.

The project also includes a new piece of public art. The city’s Public Art Committee has selected Portland artist Aaron Stephan to design what the committee calls a “cluster of lights.” The preliminary concepts call for the sculpture to be made out of ordinary street lights, which would be twisted and combined into a work of art.

Stephan did similar street lamp sculptures for the W.G. Mallett School in Farmington a few years ago, and a series of five of his lamp sculptures is on display at Texas Tech University. However, the idea received some public push-back against having similar sculptures in Portland, prompting the city to slow down the process.

This week, Stephan is scheduled to present his preliminary concepts at two public meetings. The first will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Woodfords Club. The second meeting will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in Room 3 at the Portland Public Library.

The clock restoration is being applauded by Greater Portland Landmarks, a local nonprofit preservation group. The clock sits atop a triangular, four-story brick building that once housed Deering’s town hall, before the town was annexed by Portland in 1899.

Over the years portions of the building, which was designed by Francis Fassett, have been used as a bank, a police station, bakery and even classrooms, according to Julie Larry, Greater Portland Landmarks’ director of advocacy.

“It’s such an iconic landmark at that intersection,” Larry said. “We’re very excited that the Odd Fellows undertook that project. That was a really large investment for them.”

Rooted in a belief in God, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in England during the 1700s, when disease, unemployment and lawlessness were rampant, according to the group’s website. Citizens from all walks of life banded together, contributing a portion of their wages to help one another and the community at-large, including widows and orphans. The three links that bind the group together are friendship, love and truth.

The first U.S. chapter opened in Baltimore in 1819, when the city was suffering from a yellow fever epidemic and mass unemployment. In 1851, it became the first fraternal order to accept women, although they are referred to as the Rebekahs. The Odd Fellows now operate in nearly 30 countries and have a membership of over 600,000, according to the group.

Boucher said the Portland Odd Fellows chapter, known as Lodge 6, turned 130 years old in March and includes both men and women. The group has roughly 50 members, who pay $25 a year each in dues. That’s down from the 360 members when Boucher joined in 1975.

Lodge 6 donates about $30,000 a year to charitable causes, including scholarships, food banks and individuals, Boucher said.

Boucher said the clock restoration ran about $8,000 over budget, but it was worth it. The clock had fallen into disrepair and pieces would fall off during heavy winds. Members were faced with the prospect of having to tear it down, he said.

“We’re going to hurt a little bit (financially), but we’re going to recuperate,” he said.

Some hope the restoration will set the tone for the corner’s rebirth.

“This feels like a really tangible sign of positive progress out here,” said Shambaugh, the restaurant owner. “Hats off to the Odd Fellows for making it happen.”