AUGUSTA — Two historic clocks that haven’t run for years, including a tower clock sitting prominently above Cony Circle, have been restored to their original appearance and are keeping time at the former Cony High School building once again.

The tower clock at the front peak of the distinctive flatiron building was restored, complete with gleaming golden hands and Roman numerals marking the time of day, by Wayne clock restoration expert Jim Bryant. Its behind-the-face working bits, which already had been converted – poorly, Bryant said – to run on electricity were replaced with new parts, which, still powered by electricity, should have the large, black-faced clock keeping accurate time into the future.

Joe Gould, property manager for Stewart Management, the firm that manages the building, said the tower clock probably hasn’t run since sometime in the 1980s.

“They’re amazing,” Gould said of the two history-laden clocks restored by Bryant. “I think people are going to enjoy being able to set their watches by the tower clock. Just don’t do it while you’re driving on the rotary. We have a few residents here who went to high school in this building. They’re really excited about it. It’s wonderful to see, because it’s part of history.”

The other restored clock is a bit smaller and sits inside the flatiron building at the top of its main stairwell, in a building that now provides housing for senior citizens. But that clock is of no less significance, especially with its connection to Judge Daniel Cony, namesake of the school, who gave the clock to the school and whose reminder to the thousands of students who passed by it over the years, “Time is fleeting,” is written on the clock face.

Bryant kept the text inside the clock – “Hon. Daniel Cony, Time is Fleeting” – but replaced its inner workings and removed paint from the outer ring of the clock to put shimmering gold leaf, the original material of the clock, around its face.

Bryant, 83, has worked on tower and other clocks for several decades. He also maintains about a dozen clocks in central Maine, including, when the building is not under renovation as it is now, the clock in Augusta’s Hartford Fire Station and the tower clock at Old South Congregational Church in Hallowell. He’s also worked on clocks abroad, including installing a tower clock in a 300-year-old castle in Belgium. He said he has no interest in taking on additional projects.

He said he’d wanted to work on the tower clock in the flatiron building for years, seeing, when he drove by, that it was no longer functioning. He said he’s thankful the company now running the senior housing at the flatiron building contacted him and hired him to restore the two clocks.

“They hadn’t been working for quite a few years, and they had been mutilated and destroyed, with the wrong people doing installation work,” Bryant said. “Now you’re looking at how they looked in the beginning. It’s done right.”

Mary Mayo-Wescott, a founder of Friends of the Flatiron – a group formerly active in efforts to save the building when its future was in doubt after it stopped being used as a school when a new Cony High School opened in 2006 – said it is exciting to see the two clocks restored and keeping time once again. The 1958 Cony graduate said the text inscribed in the interior clock was an important message for young Cony students to see as they passed by.

“Every day, when I went to school there, we’d pass it,” she said. “I’m very happy to see (the clocks restored). It’s so significant and important. It’s so important we know our history. It teaches us to have courage and hope.”

Developer Cyndy Taylor of Housing Initiatives of New England, the firm that has a long-term lease on the city-owned flatiron building to provide senior housing there, said she had wanted to restore the two clocks as part of the extensive renovations done to the building when it was converted from a school to an apartment complex, but there wasn’t enough money to do so.

She said restoring the clock and following up with a proposal to focus lights upon it so it is visible at night, cost $11,000 to $12,000.

“It has always been my goal to do it. It was like the last missing piece” to the flatiron renovations, said Taylor, who also oversaw the renovation of Augusta’s riverside former City Hall into senior housing, now called the Inn at City Hall. “I think they’ll last a long time.”

Julie O’Brien, a 1975 graduate of Cony High School, tied the restoration and planned lighting up of the tower clock to the city’s plans to mark the state of Maine bicentennial in 2020.

She said while it may be early to start celebrating the bicentennial, she’s hopeful the clock’s restoration will help raise local residents’ community spirit and put them in a frame of mind to appreciate the city’s and the state’s history.

She said the clocks turned out great and are gorgeous, which she said she had no doubt about, because she knew if Taylor was involved, the project would be “top-notch.”

Both clocks are tied into a master control system inside the flatiron building, which Bryant said can be reset quickly, should the electricity go out.

 

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