First Town Clock in America — in Salem, N.J. — Will Tick Again

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An historic staple in the center of Salem City will soon be up and ringing once again.

The sky-high clock known as the Salem City Town Clock towers over people traveling down Broadway. An historic clock that hasn’t rung in well over a decade.

The original bell inside the clock rang back on July 4th, 1776, for 24 hours straight to mark the country’s independence.

“It was the first town clock in America, dated to 1701,” said Gregg Perry, an horologist and owner of Perry’s Clock.

The clock has moved locations a few times until it landed at the First Baptist Church in Salem City in 1848.

According to Perry, it hasn’t been taken care of since 1902, back when the city decided they could no longer provide funds for it.

“When not cleaned, the clock just deteriorates," said Perry. "The brass, the bronze bushings, and gears wear down to nothing. This is in the most deplorable condition of any one of probably 500 clocks that I’ve ever seen."

So, with his background in clock restoration, Perry decided to take it upon himself to start the restoration of this piece of Salem County and American history.

“The process of restoration is to climb about 140 foot of ladder and steps, and disassemble this mechanism and bring the pieces down [and] do an assessment on them,” said Perry.

There could be up to 150 to 200 trips up the ladders so it will be extensive.

If they’re too far gone, Perry will have to make them in his shop since parts for this clock are no longer made.

“The actual base has to be reconstructed, repainted, cleaned," said Perry. "There [is] a series of electrical hookups. The brass dials are aging, they’re falling out of their glazing."

He’s donating his time, but the church is hoping to raise funds to help cover the $10,000 to $15,000 worth of materials to get it back up and running.

“It will be a major operation," said Perry. "Once the items are cleaned, re-machined, they have to go back up to the tower for reassembly. There could be up to 150 to 200 trips up the ladders so it will be extensive."

He’s hoping to restore the Salem City Town Clock within the next two to three years so it can ring for many years to come.

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