Biddeford City Hall’s clock tower has been partially restored, and the public celebrated this accomplishment Oct. 11. Mayor Alan Casavant thanked Balzer Family Clock Works, who completed the mechanical aspects of the renovation, and Heart of Biddeford for making this possible. (Catherine Bart photo)

Biddeford City Hall’s clock tower has been partially restored, and the public celebrated this accomplishment Oct. 11. Mayor Alan Casavant thanked Balzer Family Clock Works, who completed the mechanical aspects of the renovation, and Heart of Biddeford for making this possible. (Catherine Bart photo)

BIDDEFORD — City Hall’s clock tower is telling the correct time once more, which the city of Biddeford celebrated Oct. 11, allowing the public to see the restored piece for themselves.

The restoration process was completed by Balzer Family Clock Works, a company based in Freeport, and was funded by a $150,000 grant Biddeford won from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation through the “Partner in Preservation: Celebrating Diversity on Main Street” campaign in October of 2018.

Before the public’s tour of the clock, said Delilah Poupore, director of Heart of Biddeford, the city’s main street program, that the next phase of the grant, which is repairing the woodwork surrounding the clock, will be completed next June.

Unwavering community support helped Biddeford win the grant, Poupore said, with cities across the nation also sharing the excitement.

“[American Express and National Trust] provided the funding, but our community provided the enthusiasm and votes to win this funding in an online voting contest last year,” she said. “Did you know we garnered more votes in big cities like LA and Chicago with our enthusiasm here?”

Mayor Alan Casavant said that this restoration is just one piece in the puzzle of Biddeford’s renaissance period.

A former history teacher, Casavant said that the clock tower symbolizes his desire to shoot for the future.

“When the original city hall burned back in 1895, a big decision was, well, what to do next,” he said. “You rebuild, build a new facility, whatever that happens to be. And there were a number of people in the city that said, ‘No, let’s just cap the building and leave it as is.’ But some progressive individuals suggested to build anew. And what they did was build a brand-new structure on top of the old foundation, utilizing John Calvin Stevens as the architect. Interestingly, part of the deal was to build a building that was the tallest building in the city of Biddeford. Hence, we have the tower, and hence, we have the clock.”

A post on Biddeford Front Page News said that much of the restoration process was focused on switching the clock back from an electric timepiece to a mechanical one.

“The City Hall clock was originally installed in the tower in the early 1900s as a weight-driven, pendulum-regulated and completely mechanical operating timepiece,” the post said. “Around the 1960s, some of the mechanical components were removed and electric motors were installed to drive the remaining mechanical components for the time function and to ring the bell.”

The history of the city will be kept alive by the refurbished clock, Poupore said.

“You know, people have clocks with them all the time and phones that even talk to them, but main street programs get involved in preservation because the ability to tell the story about our history that we don’t want to forget,” she said. “They demonstrate eras of our past and they stand here as reminders of the people who came to Biddeford, built Biddeford, worked here and brought their families from all over the world. People are still doing that today, leading to a resurgence that’s created more of a community today.”

Casavant thanked Heart of Biddeford and Balzer Family Clock Works for their hard work.

“You’ve got to understand that the Heart of Biddeford is one of the most important, if not the most important organizations in Biddeford that’s not connected to city hall directly,” he said. “Because they do so much in terms of volunteerism and projects and Delilah, for example. If I said, ‘Delilah, I need help,’ she’s there.”

“The city hall clock has welcomed a diverse community downtown since 1895,” Poupore said. “It’s the story that this clock tower tells about our past that moved our community to stand up to preserve it for the future.”

— Catherine Bart can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9029.

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