Irwin officials work with new building owner to preserve historic clock
Irwin officials are working with a new building owner to preserve a landmark century-old clock that keeps time for downtown visitors.
The clock tower, which is part of the three-story McWilliams Building on Main Street in downtown Irwin, recently was sold to a new owner. Borough officials are hoping to complete an agreement for access to the tower for maintenance.
“We (had) an arrangement that the clock committee and (previous) owner would allow access to the clock for maintenance,” Mary Benko, Irwin manager, said. “There is some maintenance to the clock mechanism itself.”
The clock tower, located on the roof of the brick building, was constructed in 1905. Although many clock towers have been converted to electric operation, the Irwin clock tower has not.
Jim Drylie, 88, has become an unofficial caretaker of the clock tower. He was part of the clock's original committee in 1993 and has continued to do simple maintenance, such as oiling the gears and changing burned-out light bulbs necessary for nighttime illumination.
“I think anything that is that old and can be restored is worth fixing if it can be done,” Drylie said.
Drylie credits Jack Keck, a trained clock artisan with a shop in Madison, for refurbishing the clock in 1992. By that point, the clock had been out of commission for about 50 years, and Keck was able to shot-blast built-up grime from the three clock faces and get the mechanical parts moving again.
Over the years, the pair would check on the clock. They would climb to the tower to adjust the time during fall and spring changes and jump-start it when it became so cold that the oil thickened and prevented the clock handles from moving.
“He didn't want the people who went to church the next day to see the clock wasn't working,” Drylie said. “The clock would have to be reset, and you have to know what you're doing.”
Irwin officials paid homage to the historical clock tower in 2010 by making it part of the borough logo.
Officials used some money from a $1.9 million state grant for beautification projects to print the clock on its borough sign, letterhead and documents.
“Back then, for a lot of people it would have been their only means of knowing the time,” Drylie said. “It's more of oddity now. There aren't many towns that have a clock tower.”
The light bulbs need to be replaced every other year, and the clock faces soon will need a new coat of paint, Drylie said.
The clock committee plans to meet with Larry Cole, the building's new owner, over the next month to complete an agreement allowing access into the building for maintenance.
Cole, who also owns a security- and electronic-system company in Murrysville, said the clock tower attracted him to purchasing the brick building on Main Street. He said he will work with the board to provide access.
“I think that any piece of history is important to maintain,” he said. “Somebody made a special effort to build something like that. It's nice to preserve that.”
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.