New Boston Historical Society
New Boston, New Hampshire
Town Hall clock
New Boston Town Hall

The Town Hall Clock

Town Hall before 1913 If you live within a mile of the village center, and you listen very carefully on a clear, cold night, you may hear the Town Hall clock ring the hour.

When our Town Hall was rebuilt after the Fire of 1887, it did not have a clock at first (see photo to the left). A ladies' group called the "New Century Club" raised $750 for a clock to be installed in time for New Boston's 150th anniversary, celebrated in 1913. The clock mechanism was made by the E. Howard Clock Company, and the big bell was cast in Troy, New York.

One hundred years later the clock still keeps good time. We went upstairs to see the clock mechanism, which is the machine that counts the minutes — we did not dare go higher to visit the bell and the four clock faces.

On our way upstairs, we passed an old ticket booth. The second floor of the Town Hall once served as a theater for plays and movies; later it was a lunchroom and gymnasium for Central School students. It is now used by the Joe English Grange for their meetings.

ticket booth ticket booth
Left: Our ticket-taker was Jim Federer, the town's official clockwinder. Right: The pendulum!

Above the ticket booth, in the lowest level of the clock tower, we saw the pendulum which swings back and forth, ten feet below the clockworks. Roughhewn boards on either side of the pendulum protect the inattentive visitor from a painful encounter with the heavy weight. We climbed higher, up steep wooden stairs.

clock clock
E. Howard of Boston MA was one of two famous "tower clock" makers; Seth Thomas was the other.
The reddish wood pole in the left-hand photo is the top of the long pendulum.
The big paddles whirl around when the hour is struck; you can adjust them to make the bell ring more quickly.

clock clock
The cable in front of Jim's nose goes upstairs to the bell.
Jim talked Mary into winding the bell-ringer mechanism for him.

Jim winds the clock once a week, which is a 30-minute task, as there are two winding drums, one for the clock mechanism and one for the bell striker. Jim makes fine adjustments to a small dial if he notices that the clock is running a little fast or slow.

The plywood hour and minute hands on each of the four clock faces can be adjusted independently if moved by ice or wind. Jim cannot see the hands when he is inside the clock tower, so he communicates with an assistant down below by shouting loudly. The assistant is often Jim's son Jay Federer, the apprentice clockwinder, who is learning all of Jim's secrets about maintaining this historic clock.

At 3 o'clock, the machinery makes so much noise that you can't hear the big bell which is just overhead.

When you set your clocks back an hour next weekend — November 4, 2018 — when Daylight Savings Time ends, please think of Jim Federer, who will set his alarm for "o'dark-thirty" in the middle of the night, drive to the New Boston Town Hall, and change the time for the clock in the tower.