News details King Chapel clock restoration
Reporters visited campus to cover the process of removing the 1882 Seth Thomas clock from the tower in King Chapel on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.
The 1882 Seth Thomas clock housed within King Chapel’s clock tower is a national treasure. It is believed to be the only working Model 17 quarter-striker tower clock in existence and has run almost continuously since it was installed.
After conducting a national search, Cornell located only one individual with the expertise to restore the tower clock. Chuck Roeser of Lockport, New York, has examined the clock on three previous occasions and describes the original hand-painted scrollwork as “beyond incredible—the best I’ve ever seen on a Seth Thomas tower clock.”
Roeser took two days to remove the clock and will take a year to repair and refurbish it, back in his New York shop.
The project to repair the infrastructure of the tower and the clock is possible because of several grants and a lead gift from Cornell College Trustee Linda Webb Koehn ’66 and her husband, honorary alumnus Thomas K. Koehn.
When it was purchased for $1,050, the clock had every possible upgrade, including a pricey temperature-compensated mechanism that ensured accurate timekeeping in Iowa’s extreme or rapidly-changing temperatures. Although it is wound weekly and oiled monthly, time has been hard on the clock mechanism and its four clock faces.
Roeser and his staff will refabricate the clock dials, hands, and numerals; clean, restore, or refabricate the gearing, frame, and movement parts; rebush the worn universals; and polish and lacquer the gears and arbors. He will reinstall the clock during summer 2019.