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Hallsville School's Tower Clock will be restarted Friday

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 20. 2014 11:14PM
Manchester's Hallsville Elementary School, seen in this vintage postcard was built in 1891. The clock on the school tower, which has not worked in close to 25 years, will resume ticking on Monday. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER — Hallsville School students and principal Rachelle Otero are counting the days to the re-starting of the school's tower clock.

Friday morning, they will be counting down by minutes as they wait for the manually-wound clock to begin ticking again.

Otero said the last time the clock worked was at Hallsville's 100th anniversary celebration in 1991. She said it was purchased for $1,250 from the E. Howard clockmaker in Boston for the Hallsville School, which cost $15,500 to construct in 1891.

Otero, who was named principal of Hallsville by the late School Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Brennan, credits Brennan and chief facilities manager Kevin O'Maley, for making the clock repairs possible.

"They spearheaded the project," said Otero. Members of Brennan's family are invited to the ceremony Friday that begins at 9 a.m. with awards presentations.

"Dr. Brennan hired me," said Otero.

Brennan will be honored, at the ceremony, along with two previous longtime Hallsville principals, James Davenport and Alderman William Shea.

Otero said she has been using the time leading up to the re-start to educate the students about Hallsville facts. Every week there is a new piece of Hallsville history. Sometimes its a question that requires research to find the answer and sometimes it's just a piece of information, like that the statue of Abraham Lincoln that is now at Manchester High School Central used to be at Hallsville.

Then there was the 1908 addition to the school, put right in the middle. The school was literally cut in half and the east half moved 40 feet on rollers, so four rooms could be added between the sections and then old and new were joined.

Some of the facts are harder than others for the students to digest. For example: The bell of the tower clock regulated school life. Otero said students went home for lunch in those days.

"The bell rang for them to go home for lunch and again for them to come back," she said. Otero said students had a hard time imagining what it was like before watches and smart phones were used to tell time.

The mechanism was restored by Philip D'Avanza of Goffstown, who has restored a number of historic clocks. But while most have been revamped to run on electricity, an exception is the clock in the former Ash Street School, later education department headquarters and now home of SilverTech on Bridge Street. That one still gets wound, said Eric Krueger, city facilities superintendent and historian.

The Hallsville Tower Clock will be another exception. "It's not electrified," said Krueger. It is all mechanical, with gravity weights and an 8-foot-long pendulum that swings at 1.5 second intervals, he said.

"Someone has to crank it once a week," said Otero. Krueger said that's not exactly right. It will be "wound" every seven days, but he said it could go eight days between windings.

Otero has been up in the tower and said: "To me it was breathtaking."

Unfortunately, said Otero, the children won't be able to go up and see the clock mechanism in the tower. There are no railings and it would be too dangerous, she said.

But there will be photos of the mechanism on display and there will be pictures of the view from each direction, taken from the tower. A virtual trip to the tower, said Otero.

The Friday events, awards and recognitions, will begin at 9 a.m. and Otero expects the clock will start ticking at 9:30. Everyone will be assembled outside and Otero is hoping for good weather so the children can see when the big restart happens.

"They are so excited," she said. So is she.

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