The L.S. Ayres Clock Restoration: A Tale of Two Phases

  • October 01, 2021 8:13 AM
    Message # 11132595
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Provided By: Paul Smith, ONS Resident and former ONSNA Board Member; Written By: Murphy Hendy, ONS resident and Realtor

    "Part of being able to get things done is knowing who to call for help!", exclaimed Paul Smith, a beloved ONS resident and dedicated friend to many. He recalls this sentiment during the hot summer months of 2016 when dear friend and former ONS resident, Mary Kummings, reached-out to him on-a-whim to express concern that the iconic L.S. Ayres clock had stopped working suddenly. Puzzled as to why she was calling him about this sad news, Paul inquired further. Mary stated with conviction, "...because you get things done, Paul!"  And so it began.

    Paul knew immediately who to contact about the then-estimated $20,000 repair: Marsh Davis of Indiana Landmarks. Marsh and Paul trusted that the loyal Indiana Landmarks members (and many others within the concerned community) would lovingly recall the warm memories of holiday shopping at the downtown L.S. Ayres store, complete with an enchanted lunch in the famed Tea Room, and followed by a quick glance-up at the handsome clock to ensure they didn't miss a beat while gathering treasures and trinkets for their loved ones each holiday season. Naturally, heart strings were pulled and purses were opened until the earliest funds were raised after only a few short weeks of fundraising.

    Initially, Smith's Bell & Clock Company (based out of our own Camby, IN) was hired to assess the extent of the work needed to restore the treasured downtown fixture. It became very evident to Smith's Bell & Clock Co. that this project was going to be an extended endeavor that could potentially take a few years to manifest properly, not to mention the additional costs that would be associated with such an involved and important undertaking. 

    The first phase of this daunting task would involve the complete replacement of the intricate inner workings of the clock (the clockworks), the 4 giant faces of each side of the clock and all the critical time-telling hands that adorned them. With the satisfaction of all involved, including the meandering pedestrians below, the clock was proudly telling time again, stately suspended over Washington St. This, however, was just the beginning, as Paul recalls.

    Between 2016 and 2020, hearts were happy and memories continued to run deep while the clock ticked and tocked overhead, but with the harsh reality of the second (more invasive) phase of the restoration looming in the distance, Indiana Landmarks began seeking additional financial support to complete the project entirely, which is exactly what they did! The decorative façade of the 5-ton clock was exhibiting such decay and deterioration and the internal steel structure (the armature upon which the clock's bronze 'skin' is attached) was a fraction of its former self that would require the careful craftsmanship of highly skilled, locally-based artisans, Brose Partington and John Klinkose. The internal structural restoration that would materialize at the tail-end of 2020 would allow the prized timepiece to remain sturdy, steady and sound for generations to come; and just in time to bring the watchful cherub back to his seasonal perch that Thanksgiving Day, keeping in-line with his tactful tradition of gazing upon the festive holiday shoppers of a bustling downtown Indy as the December chill rolls in.

    Thanks to Mary, Paul, Marsh, Smith's Bell & Clock Co., Brose, John and the many charitable members of the community, the clock will remain a timeless (pun intended) and trusted fixture for all to enjoy as each day, season, and year passes. The celebrity cherub that sits atop this bronze beauty also appreciates knowing he's safe and sound for the duration of his annual 30-day appearance each holiday season!


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