Orange County Insight June 2022

A Stitch in Time … Orange County Public Works Returns Courthouse Clock to Operation

By: Orange County Communications Department

Orange County ’ s courthouse clock is installed in its intriguing Tuscan - style tower. It features three (3) distinct clock faces, facing approximately east, west, and south. Unfortunately, it has been decades since the clock has been correct more than twice a day, and most residents don ’ t remember it ever being functional. However, the future looks bright, as our Public Works Department has set the hands of time in motion once again. The clock was purchased used in 1924 thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Orange Campfire Girls. According to a plaque next to the timekeeping mechanism, it is a product of E. Howard & Co., of Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryan Dewyea, Orange County Public Works Director, worked personally to figure out the clock ’ s mechanisms and to get the gears turning again. He found some archived papers about the main types of clocktower mechanisms. While not an exact match, Dewyea was able to find a diagram that was similar to the courthouse clock, and using this, was able to deduce its operation. The craftsmanship of the old clock was demonstrated when only minor repairs and some grease were needed to get it ticking once again. Similar to a grandfather clock, it is gravity - driven. Winding it raises a weight, which stores energy that is slowly released as the weight falls. That energy drives the pendulum and the gears

The mechanism is roughly the size of a dishwasher.

that operate the clockface ’ s hands. A similar device operates the chime; a separate weight provides the energy for the striker to ring the bell the proper number of times on the hour. Since this weight drops each

time the bell is struck (156 times per day), it must be able to drop much further than the timekeeping weight to avoid “ bottoming out. ” Impressively, it is able to drop all the way to the Courthouse ’ s basement through a dedicated chute. Both weights must be regularly wound for the clock to fully operate, and much of the mechanisms of the clock are in place to synchronize these two (2) actions. Mr. Dewyea has observed that the clock seems able to operate for up to a week before needing to be wound again.

Those observing the clock will notice that two (2) faces are currently operational. The third (facing westward) is missing hands. Mr. Dewyea has searched and found that the internal pieces seem to all be present, albeit disassembled. He is currently looking into options to return the third face to operation as well. In the mean time, keep a “ watch ” ful eye on the clock. Public Works Director Ryan Dewyea winds the clock.

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