A much Remembered Landmark for Brown High and other Spring-Breakers

 

Clock Tower Restoration Complete

By AUDREY PARENTE, Staff Writer

July 17, 2010 12:05 AM

Jim Zeisler installs new hands Friday on the coquina clock tower on the Boardwalk behind the Hilton Hotel. N-J | David Tucker

Jim Zeisler with the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors holds two of the large new clock hands Friday that hes installing on the coquina clock tower on the Boardwalk behind the Hilton Hotel. N-J | David Tucker

 

The clock tower on the Boardwalk as it looked in 1961. N-J file

 

 

Clock tower history

 

The coquina clock tower was part of a Works Progress Association project, a New Deal agency created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that employed millions of Americans affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 

The clock tower was dedicated in 1938.

 

Early construction included a promenade, arcade booths and a bandshell, but, except for the clock tower and Bandshell, most was demolished in favor of new development in the late 1970s.

 

In 1980, a local clock association rescued the clock, which became clogged from bird droppings. A rededication occurred in 1989.

 

In 1999, the structure was listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

 

In 2008, new works were installed but with wrong-sized hands, which were replaced Friday.

 

Compiled by Audrey Parente

 

DAYTONA BEACH -- A contingent of Colombia Baptist Church students from Falls Church, Va., posed Friday for a photo by a quaint beachside clock tower, dwarfed by the Hilton Hotel.

 

The tourists had no idea the coquina landmark was created during the Works Progress Administration-era of the late 1930s. Nor did they know the tower was once part of an arcade that dominated the landscape on the World's Most Famous Beach.

 

As far as the visitors could tell, the time piece was missing hands and didn't work.

 

But that was about to change.

 

"I don't know the history or its value," said Mark Helton, one of the Christian group's leaders. "But it looks awesome."

 

Soon after the dozens of Christian summer camp folks climbed down from the clock spire and disappeared down the Boardwalk, Jim Zeisler of Daytona Beach showed up.

 

Zeisler, a retired Ohio firefighter and clock aficionado, carried four pairs of titanium clock hands with stainless steel bolts -- worth $800.

 

Behind him arrived a bucket truck, driven by city equipment operator Jimmy Tarczewski.

 

The two replaced the missing clock hands and finished up a long-standing project.

 

"We got a break and paid $600," Zeisler said of the hands that replaced ones mounted during a refurbishing project two years ago.

 

"It ran for all those years (since the 1930s) with a mechanical movement, but a few years ago we put up four electric movements," he said. "Instead of having to go up in the tower for each one, a switch and a switchbox control all four at once."

 

During the 2008 renovation, a glitch occurred. Wrong over-sized brass and aluminum appendages were jury-rigged until the problem could be solved.

 

Since then, two minute hands "blew away," Zeisler said. "I sent five hands back and they sent me eight new ones."

 

Better, correct-sized materials made things right, he said.

 

"The money came out of the Redevelopment Department," said Hilary Rowley, Daytona Beach athletic manager whose duties usually include such jobs as overseeing installation of football-field turf. "Those (clock hands) come under my other related duties."

 

The replacement project involved a $5,000 commitment from the city and several volunteer clock-expert members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors of Daytona Beach, including Zeisler and Tom Bransford, a nationally recognized watchmaker from DeLand.

 

Bransford disassembled the clock and acquired new parts from the American Time and Signal Co. of Minnesota. City workers built a new stainless steel clock tower mount.

 

Pat Costello Young, 73, said she was 4 when her parents first brought her to the arcade.

 

"What I remember most is, there was a building near the Bandshell with a youth council, and we did the bunny hop and conga-lines and there were pool tables," she said. "As teenagers, we used to hang out there, take rides on the Ferris wheel and stuff. It was like a fortress."

 

Young, of Ormond Beach, is glad the clock is fixed.

 

"It's a landmark," she said, "and why would you have it if you aren't going to make it work?"