GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A forgotten beacon has been unstuck in time.
The antique Seth Thomas clock hands atop the landmark Kingsley Building are turning again, greeting drivers approaching Eastown on Lake Drive SE as they once did.
Originally built in 1926, the exterior clock was restored this summer by Grand Rapids clockmaker Ian Macartney’s company Lumichron, and was installed last week on the top floor of the five-story building.
“It’s as close to original-looking as we could get it,” said Baird Hawkins of Bazzani Associates, which redeveloped the historic building at 1415 Lake Dr. SE. “It’s cool at night. You can see it from a couple blocks away.”
For years, the clock face and frame were frozen in stasis behind a square, modern clock with a Kent Records Management logo on the front of the building.
The clock’s original inner-workings, brass gears, pendulum and wooden arms were donated to Bazzani in 2011 by Alan Teelander of Lowell, who saved them in his garage after Zondervan Publishing Co. moved from the building in 1974.
The restored custom clock reuses the original cast-iron frame, but the original machinery could not be re-integrated into the clock, said Hawkins.
Instead, the exterior custom clock has been automated with modern controls that are tied to a master clock in the building that “does everything but make hot chocolate.” Back-lighting and seasonal time changes are all handled automatically. The clock face is backlit from dusk to dawn each day.
The restoration by Macartney took four months. Hawkins said the white translucent glass on the clock face was extremely difficult to locate in large and thick enough quantity, but Macartney found an art glass foundry in Pennsylvania which had some residual stock.
The clockmaker’s other work can be seen around Grand Rapids at the new downtown Amtrak station and the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
Building architect George S. Kingsley used Seth Thomas clocks as a trademark in many of his designs, said Hawkins.
Last year, the Kingsley Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The 87-year-old tower clock structure is the tallest building in the immediate area, and is built on an old lumberyard once owned by a former mayor of Grand Rapids. The tower clock building features 16-foot-high ceilings and plate glaze terra cotta tile.
Hawkins said Bazzani is in final stages of leasing the last ground floor retail space in the building. The upper floors will remain in use as bulk storage for several years. Eventually, the plan is to build apartments and/or condo units on the third, fourth and fifth floors with parking underground, he said.
A historic plaque dedication ceremony is planned for the spring.