It’s About Time to Fix That Clock, Groups Say

It’s anyone’s guess when the 82-year-old clock atop the W. H. Spurgeon Building stopped telling time. Some longtime residents say the four-faceted clock stopped after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Others say it worked for a while after a 1985 renovation but then stopped. All agree that the clock—frozen on three sides at 5:05—now tells the correct time only twice a day. (The fourth side lacks a minute hand.)

To remedy the situation, four local organizations have banded together to renovate the clock in the hope of having the hands sweeping and the bells chiming by New Year’s Eve. “Walking down the street and seeing that all four sides of the clock are the wrong time” has gone on long enough, said Donald Krotee of the Downtown Santa Ana Business Assn., which pledged $7,000 to the renovation. “That’s apparent to even 5-year-olds.”

Other organizations joining the project are the Orange County Historical Society, the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and the Orange County chapter of the National Assn. of Watch and Clock Collectors. Renovation activists say that it could cost as much as $17,000 to get the 1913 clock ticking. About $12,000, electrical work and electrical supplies have already been pledged. Organizers hope to garner another $5,000 either by selling commemorative prints of the clock or by getting a loan or grant.

The clock is atop a building owned by Santa Ana-based CM properties, which has pledged up to $3,000 for renovations. The principal tenants are the city’s public works and planning departments. A small group of residents and business people came up with the idea of renovating the clock over coffee with Councilman Thomas E. Lutz last spring. Last month, the project got a break when South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa agreed to sell them a used electronic carillon so that the clock can chime, said Rush of the watch and clock collectors group.

The clock’s simple white and orange arches, a nod to what Krotee says is the Federalist style of architecture, appear to be made of wood but are actually painted sheet metal. Krotee, a partner in a Santa Ana business that specializes in restoring historic buildings, said city founder William H. Spurgeon probably built the 32-foot-tall clock to help establish the building as a landmark.

The four-story building at 206 W. 4th St. is on the National Register of Historic Places.

(Jeff Kass, “It’s About Time to Fix That Clock, Groups Say,” Los Angeles Times, February 2000)

Ehsan TamkhisaJeff Kass