Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 16 December 2011 00:00
Roslyn residents have noticed some gaps in the village’s most historic landmark. The dials on the clock of the Ellen E. Ward Clock Tower indeed are not there. But in the spring, village officials hope that they will not only be back, but will be giving residents and visitors the right time.
Recently, the board of trustees authorized the firm, Essence of Time, one based near Buffalo, to make extensive repairs and restoration work on the clock tower. The process, village officials said, is still ongoing and they are hoping the final product will be returned to Roslyn by the spring of 2012. Village officials also said that when Essence of Time does repair work, they often keep the product on their site for a limited period of time to make sure that the clock in question works on a reliable basis.
Village officials noted that the clock has not been fully restored to its original functioning order in some time. In the winter of 1994, Morris Welte, the stepfather of then-BOT member and future mayor Janet Galante, did extensive work on the structure, all in anticipation of the structure’s centennial in 1995. But the current job, village officials claim, will bring the famous clock to its original condition.
And so, the work will be the most ambitious renovation project done on the clock tower. The structure has been disassembled piece by piece, allowing the entire mechanism to be removed and renovated. When disassembling the clock, workers, village officials said, were careful not to remove the paint, a process that could hamper the renovation work.
Village officials also said that the cost of renovation work would not come from the village’s General Fund, but instead from the Parkland Reserve Fund.
For more than a century, the Roslyn Clock Tower has stood on Northern Boulevard. The 44-foot tower was built in 1895 for $7,000 by Ira Dewitt Lefever in memory of Ellen Eliza Ward, the twice widowed, longtime resident of the village.
Ms. Ward (b. 1826) was the daughter of William and Ann Cairnes, a couple that lived at two different estates in the village. Her first husband, Robert Stuart, was a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy. After Stuart’s death in 1863, Ms. Ward eventually married Elijah Ward, a man who led a significant public life, serving as a Judge Advocate General of New York State, a member of the U.S. Congress, and as a close friend of President James Garfield. Ward died in 1882 and in that same year, a stained glass memorial was donated to Trinity Church in Roslyn. In 1885, Ellen Ward donated the Roslyn Watering Trough in front to the Willet Titus House, to his memory.
Ellen Ward died in 1893 and her long years of volunteer work to the community had touched Roslyn residents deeply. Ms. Ward, for instance, supplied funds to Trinity Church after the Depression of 1873 had severely depleted the church’s finances. Upon her death, Ms. Ward had bequeathed $20,000 to the church, the interest from which was to be used toward the rector’s salary.
In March 1895, Ms. Ward’s children made an offer to erect a stone tower and clock in their mother’s honor. Since Roslyn was not incorporated at that time, the offer was made to The Town of North Hempstead. The offer had great support in Roslyn and the April 5, 1895 edition of The Roslyn News stated: “It affords us great pleasure to be able to state that the resolution concerning the acceptance of the Tower and Clock for Roslyn Village was carried by a large vote on Tuesday.”
Work soon began and by December 1895, the clock tower was in operation. In April 1896, all construction was complete. A Roslyn News article praised the new structure as “a product of its time,” one whose “striking clock has given pleasure to many over the years. It indeed has been ‘an ornament and a benefit.’” Not only that, the Clock Tower has become the symbol of Roslyn and should remain so for much time to come.