Cumberland Times-News

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November 20, 2013

Iowa clock brings repairman to Queen City

CUMBERLAND — Ask Rory Demesy what time it is and he’ll tell you how to build a clock, or fix one, a big one.

Seriously. That’s what he does.

Wednesday afternoon Demesy climbed 40 feet into the clock tower of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ at 312 Bedford St. to look at a part.

“I am aware of only three clocks of this kind in the country,” Demesy said, standing on narrow, wooden, creaky steps near the substantial weights that drive the huge timepiece that is visible from many parts of the Queen City.

Besides the local Hotchkiss clock, as it is known, others exist in a private collection in Ohio and in the courthouse at Bloomfield, Iowa.

It is the Iowa clock that brought Demesy from Minnesota, where he operates Mechanical Watch Supply, to Cumberland.

“The verge on the clock in Iowa needs replaced,” Demesy explained.

The verge is the mechanism in a mechanical clock that controls its rate by advancing the gear train at regular intervals or “ticks.”

With the assistance of Joe DiGiovanni of Allegany Clock Works, the verge was removed and Demesy made a mold of it on site.

Once he determined he was working with a Hotchkiss clock in Iowa, Demesy’s research revealed the location of the tower clock in Cumberland. He found that DiGiovanni maintains the clock — inspecting it, oiling it and resetting it twice a year at seasonal time changes — and the connection was made.

DiGiovanni, a Rawlings resident, started Allegany Clock Works after retiring from Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in 1998.

Demesy said he hopes to have the tower clock in Bloomfield ticking and tocking and telling time in a couple of months.

The clock in Cumberland is manually wound every Tuesday by church member John Howard, according to Pastor Xenia Rae Browning.

DiGiovanni showed that the clock has three winding handles, one for the clock, one for the hour toll and one for the quarter-hour toll.

Browning said the church was given the clock in 1853 by Cumberland’s mayor.

“The story is that this church and Saints Peter and Paul were both under construction and that the mayor said whoever completed their church and had the first service would receive the clock,” Browning said.

Demesy also restored the tower clock in the Old Red Courthouse in Dallas, 240 feet above Dealy Plaza, the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

The JFK Memorial, the Texas Book Depository and the grassy knoll are all visible from that clock tower.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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