Bath’s downtown clock has been running since 1855. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Bath’s downtown clock, which has been chiming every hour since 1855, is too historic to alter, according to Bath city councilors.

A group of neighbors on Elm Street recently asked the council to silence the city-owned bell overnight because its noise makes it hard for them to sleep. The clock’s 1,500-pound brass bell rings once at 1 p.m., twice at 2 p.m. and so on. The chimes, which one resident equated to a train horn, can be heard from miles away. The neighbors say the 11 p.m. and midnight chimes are particularly hard to sleep through.

But many residents, including those on the City Council, say the clock is an important, unique part of the city’s character.

“Living in a historic community means you accept some things that feel a little inconvenient and bothersome,” Councilor Roo Dunn said Wednesday.

Fellow councilors agreed and they didn’t take action on the neighbors’ request.

Billy Nethercote, one of the Elm Street neighbors, was frustrated.


“I think it’s absurd that they still want them to chime at night,” he said. “I don’t believe the council ever gave a fair look into it.”

Bath’s downtown clock was built by Boston-based clockmakers Edward Howard and David Potter Davis. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

The four-sided clock tower, part of the First Baptist Church, has about 20-foot black faces, with gold-colored time markings. It was built by Boston-based clockmakers Edward Howard and David Potter Davis, whose names are etched in the clock’s original gear system. The bell was built by Clinton H. Meneely of the Bell Company in Troy, New York.

The city of Bath has an ordinance that generally limits noise to 50 decibels during the overnight hours, but the clock predates that regulation and is exempt.

Jonathan Carpenter, the city’s facilities director, said the chimes were measured at about 80 decibels. Nethercote said he used an app and measured the chimes at 92 decibels, which he said sounds like a train horn.

“It’s very hard to sleep,” Nethercote said after he and his neighbors submitted a petition to the City Council asking it to silence the bells overnight. “You got nine bells at 9 p.m., 10 at 10 p.m., 11 at 11 p.m. The midnight one is brutal because it’s 12 chimes. It wakes you up.”

“I feel for the folks who are having trouble sleeping,” Councilor Susan Bauer said, “but they chose to live there.”


Nethercote, who moved in earlier this year and said his landlord didn’t tell him about the bell noise overnight, said he and his girlfriend sleep with earplugs, which could pose a safety problem if there’s a fire alarm or break-in.

It appears the group of Elm Street neighbors are among the only people in the city who want the bell silenced, according to council Chairperson Mary Ellen Bell.

“I’m not hearing a widespread concern,” she said. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

The clock’s gear system is original and it would have to be removed from the 70-foot tower and machined to silence it at night, which would cost $40,000 or more, according to Carpenter. The clock is one of the last produced by Howard and Davis still in existence and one of the 15 oldest in the state, he said.

The clock’s hammer system could be removed to silence it completely, but that would cause the gears to move faster and possibly cause catastrophic damage, according to Carpenter.

In 2013, the owner of the Kismet Inn on Summer Street nearby and other residents complained about the bell to the City Council, which weighed making changes but ultimately decided to keep it running as is because of its historic value.

Dave Pecci, head trustee at the First Parish Church in Bath, stands in the downtown clock tower next to the 1,500-pound brass bell that rings every hour. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

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