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Downtown Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's clock shows it's time for a fix

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 11:05 p.m.
The hands of the landmark Kaufmann's clock in Downtown Pittsburgh stand still on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
The hands of the landmark Kaufmann's clock in Downtown Pittsburgh stand still on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
The landmark Kaufmann's clock in Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
The landmark Kaufmann's clock in Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

Time is standing still at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street, Downtown.

The landmark Kaufmann's clock is no longer ticking. It's always 8:13 for people passing the former Kaufmann's building, which Macy's sold last year and the buyer closed in September.

“I thought that was the right time,” said Robert Brown, 65, of Duquesne, squinting through bright Tuesday afternoon sunlight at the shining clock and back at his wrist watch. “It's quarter after eight. That clock is a landmark. Why isn't it working?”

That's a question Pittsburgh Councilman Corey O'Connor is attempting to answer.

O'Connor of Swisshelm Park said he was approached Monday by an official of Huntington Bank asking the same question and offering the bank's financial help in getting the clock running again.

He said a call to Philadelphia-based Core Realty, which bought the Macy's building for $15 million in July, was not returned. The company did not return the Tribune-Review's calls.

“He basically said that Huntington would be willing to be a sponsor to get the clock running,” O'Connor said of the bank executive, who did not return a phone call from the Trib. “It was just one of those things. I think the bank is a good partner in the city, and he knows me.”

But the problem might be as simple as the electric clock being unplugged, according to David McGee, owner of Pittsburgh Clock & Lock Co., who maintained the timepiece before the new owners stepped in.

“I think they just have the power shut off during construction,” said McGee of Mt. Washington, who spoke with Core but didn't have a definitive answer Tuesday. “I'm waiting to hear back from them.”

The company's redevelopment plans include a hotel and upscale condominiums on upper floors of the building and stores on the ground floor. Construction was expected to begin this summer, and the city issued a building permit last month.

The store appeared to be deserted Tuesday.

The clock has stood since 1913 at the corner and was a legendary meeting place for generations of Pittsburghers. The spot is so iconic that couples — including McGee — married there. Late Councilwoman Michelle Madoff once famously told a colleague to kiss her you-know-what under the clock.

McGee had maintained it since 1987 for Kaufmann's and Macy's and hopes Core retains his services. He said the Core representative he spoke with appeared interested in getting it running again.

All it probably needs, he said, is to have its computer reset for daylight saving time and a few minor tweaks.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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