Blog 42 February 20, 2015

Have you been to a wedding recently? As is the custom nowadays, a DJ playing music way too loud on over-sized amps will call the bride and groom to the floor for a first dance as newlyweds. The song will invariably be “At Last” (back in the day, it was “The Anniversary Waltz”, but who waltzes anymore?)

I did not just get married, but I am humming “At Last,” because the history book is in the mail, possibly delivered by the time you read this. Many thanks to Charlie and Dottie Griffin, Tas (Dorothy) Crawford McGraw, Sarah Belcia Yates, and Bob Blake for gathering on a cold, windy, wet Friday afternoon just past to get the books ready for the mail. The post office has them now, though I am scratching my head over that. The envelopes have a tracking number, and last night I tracked a few and it said they have gone to Dallas, even the local ones.

The Hertzberg clock is located downtown at Houston and St Marys Streets across from the Gunter hotel. Here is perhaps more than you care to know about the 137-year old clock.

Hertzbergclock 3159It seems odd that a 17-foot-tall landmark, standing on such a busy intersection of downtown, could be so camouflaged.

Most downtowners pass the 137-year-old Hertzberg clock at Hous­ton and St. Mary’s streets without noticing it.

A few years ago, the San Antonio Conserva­tion Society Foundation, the clock’s owner, re­ceived when it broke down

“We went down opened the door and said, “Geez, we have a complete restoration here.” said Ed Gaida, a now-retired repairman of clocks, or­gans and other complex mechanical devices, who led a team that restored the Hertzberg in summer 2008.

Built in 1878 by E. Howard & Co. of Boston, the clock was installed outside the Eli Hertzberg Jewelry Co on Commerce Street. In 1910, when Com­merce Street was wid­ened, the store — along with the clock — moved to the Gunter Office building on the corner of Houston and St Mary’s streets.

In 1979 the New York-based Friends of Cast Iron Architecture wrote that the “Hertzberg clock may be the last of these clocks operated by a system of weights. We know of no other that is hand wound, all others being electrified.”

Two of Hertzberg’s descendents donated the clock to the Conservation Society in 1979.  In October 1982, the clock was dismantled and removed by crane to make way for the Republic Bank Plaza, currently known as the IBC Centre. It was rededicated in December 1985, restored by London Watch and Clock Co. and Kurt Voss Metals Inc. of San Antonio. But just a few years later, it was removed again for Tri-Party upgrades that widened the sidewalks of Houston Street.

It was reassembled for the last time in 1990. A mechanical device, the Hertzberg clock runs purely on kinetic energy like the rocking pendulum and dangling weight system of a grandfather clock.

“It’s precisely the same mechanism, only it’s heavy duty,” Gaida said. “The wheels are bigger. The gears are stronger. The weights are heavier. Because, remember, it has to drive those hands and those hands are exposed to the elements. In a strong wind, it has to be powerful enough to drive those hands.

”The clock is supposed to be wound once a week, but Laven, a metal fabricator, winds it twice a week — Monday morning and Thursday afternoon— because it’s more accurate that way. Some of the key parts have been replaced or repaired in recent years, Gaida said. “Just off the top of my head, I would say it’s good for another 50 years, at least,” Gaida said.“There’s really not much that can wear out. They were built like battleships— all cast iron and brass.”

Hertzbergclock 2158

Here is the clock with the Gunter Hotel across the street.

Enough history for now. I am having some formatting problems with the inserted portion on the clock. More in a day or so.

4 thoughts on “Blog 42 February 20, 2015

  1. PAPTJP@aol.com

    When I worked at Joske’s I got off the bus at that corner and checked to see if I was gonna be late or not. Love your blogs. PP

    Reply
  2. jeanine

    An very lengthly article about the Hertzberg Clock was in the Harlingen paper last Sunday. I also remember always checking the time when getting off the bus. A friend of my mother worked at Hertzberg Jewerly every Christmas season during the 40’s and 50’s. The name Kurt Voss rang a bell with me. My mom’s first cousin, Gloria Gray, was married to him when they were very young. I remember seeing him one time in his military uniform. They divorced and I had forgotten about him. Thanks for keeping us informed of all the memories and happenings.

    Reply

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