HISTORY OF THE YORKVILLE CLOCK

Local clockwatchers are aware that the historic Yorkville Clock is missing from the sidewalk in front of the Reimann & Breese Furniture store at 1501 Third Avenue near 85th Street. The proprietors of the store, Ann Davenport and her two sons, agreed with neighborhood preservationists that the tall cast-iron clock should be restored. It is now in Utah at the foundry of Historical Arts and Casting, Inc. and will return in the spring of 1999.

The clock was removed early on the morning of November 20, 1998. A sizable group of preservationists and other friends of the clock, including the area's city council member Gifford Miller, watched in awe as ta portable crane lifted its tow large, very heavy components in preparation for its trip.

The old clock, formerly in the shadow of the Third Avenue elevated railroad, was a community favorite from the day in 1898 when Adolph Stern had it set up in front of his jewelry store at 1508 Third Avenue, NW corner of 85th Street, where a 36-story Park Lane Towers apartment house now stands. In 1923 Sterns Store, having added a pawn shop, moved with its clock across the street to 1501 Third Avenue, between 84th and 85th Streets. A memorable 1945 motion picture, "The Lost Weekend," shows an inebriated Ray Milland clinging to the clocks as an elevated train rumbles overhead.

The 17 foot tall Yorkville clock, simulating a giant to faced pocket watch , was designated an official New York City landmark on August 25, 1981, along with the few other remaining sidewalk clocks in the five boroughs. It was produced by the E. Howard Clock Co., headquarted in Massachusetts with New York office at 532 Broadway. The company had manufactured sidewalk clocks since 1870.

In the second half of the 19th century similar tall cast iron sidewalk clocks became very popular throughout the United States. Merchants used them for advertising, and they served the public by telling correct time for the many people who could not afford pocket watches.

About a hundred years after it first appeared on Third Avenue, the Yorkville Clock, by this time owned by Reimann & Breese Furniture Store, had quixotic experience. In 1985, a city employee mistakenly sold it as surplus city property to a clock devotee named Frank Dorsa who planned to display it in his family's collection in Muttontown, Long Isand. When Dorsa went to Reimann & Breese hoping to locate missing clock pieces, he was almost arrested as a thief. Only his bill of sale saved him. Apprised of the unfortunate sale, Mayor Edward Koch's special assistant, Herbert Rickman, negotiated the clock's return and also the reimbursement to the Dorsa family.

An antique dealer named Louis Agrusa volunteered to refurbish the old clock. The cost of materials and equipment came to more than $10,000, raised from many local donors, among them the clock owner Leo Davenport, the weekly newspaper Our Town and neighborhood clock ally, Cynthia Crane, who had loved the clock since childhood. Hailed as "the comeback clock" the historic timepiece, reerected at its old location, was unveiled ceremoniously on February 23, 1989.

The clock's many moves over the last year contributed to its ser1ious deterioration over the last decade. By early 1998, its need for repairs was evident once again. It ran sporadically. Often one face told one time and the other another. The glass on one face was cracked and taped in place. Its iron pedestal, defaced by graffiti, showed patches of rust where paint had peeled off.

After Robert Baird of Historical Arts and Casting, who restored Central park's cast-iron bridges, evaluated the clock's condition, residents and preservationists agreed that a complete overhaul was imperative. Although Baird is donating certain services, the cost of the clock's total restoration will be $18,000. So a new group was organized in November of 1998: Neighbors Restoring the Historic Yorkville clock, to raise the funds and also to serve as guardians of the clock's future.

Margot Gayle February 1999