Out of Time

January 9, 2009
By

JOHN RUCH

New street clock doesn’t work

JP CENTER—The new 1930s-style clock in front of Citizens Bank, unveiled with fanfare by Mayor Thomas Men-ino in November, was intended to add a touch of history.

But now it is having trouble with the present. From the first week it was up and running, the clock—an old-fashioned mechanical timepiece—has often shown the wrong time.

As of early this week, the clock had been stopped at about 5:40 for at least eight days.

“It’s a mechanical problem,” said Michael Reiskind, a JP Centre/South Main Streets (JP CSMS) board member recruited by the group as the main clock-winder. “The pendulum is stopping for some unknown reason.”

The pendulum is a swinging device that keeps the clock going for a long time after its mechanism is wound up with a key.

“It’s always out of order,” said Madelyn Diaz, a Citizens banker. The clock sits atop a tall pole in front of the bank at 696 Centre St. It consists of a new casing built around an actual 1930s clockwork—but not the long-lost original that once stood on the spot. The clock replaced a similar electric clock that was removed in 2006.

Electric clocks do not need a pendulum or winding to keep running. But one reason talk of replacing the bank’s electric clock began in 2004 was that the clock had been showing the wrong time for months.

Also, the clock’s wiring was leaking electricity into the sidewalk, delivering shocks to the bare feet of dogs, causing them to yelp and jump as they walked by.

The new mechanical clock is owned by Citizens, though it was partly funded by the City of Boston. Nick Martin, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, said that JP CSMS is largely responsible for keeping the clock working. JP CSMS Director Randace Moore said Reiskind is in charge of figuring out how to make the clock run on time.

Other JP clocks

Public clocks, once a necessary public service, have been on the wane since the fashion for cheap wrist-watches began in the early 1900s. In a computerized era where virtually every device, from cell phones to car stereos, has a built-in clock, they are even less necessary.

A Gazette review of other prominent public clocks in Jamaica Plain found that Citizens is not alone in giving the wrong time. On the other hand, the biggest examples work just fine.

The historic clock in the tower of First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist, in the heart of Monument Square, shows the right time. It is also hand-wound.

The giant tower clock at the MBTA’s Forest Hills T Station is also correct.

But some smaller clocks are wrong or broken. They include the E-13 Police Station at Washington and Green streets; the Stop & Shop supermarket in Jackson Square; and the Prudential Prime Properties real estate of-fice near Citizens at 673 Centre St.

Sandra Storey contributed this article.

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