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History Center Gets Clock Cleaned

Published on Apr 14, 2021

Bill Kearns carefully scraped away sealant that held the inner face of the Polk County History Center’s clock face in place, removed the glass plate that held the clocks arms and pulled it inside the gleaming silver dome.

Kearns, who works with Boyd Clocks, was one of several team members who helped to repair and refurbish the inner workings of the clock, which was designed by E. Howard & Co., Boston in 1908.

During its 113-year history, the clock has been the subject of several refurbishments and odd stories.

Before it was converted to electricity, the clock was wound by several striking weights. And on the night of Jan. 13, 1942, the striking weight on the clock broke and crashed through the dome.

The weight was between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds and made of concrete. It came down with so much force and noise that people thought the courthouse was bombed. This was during World War II and Bartow’s residents were on high alert.

John Parramore, an employee working at the courthouse, had left the school board office that evening to light a cigarette when the weight came crashing down.

A newspaper article at the time reported a cable holding the weight snapped and crashed through the vaulted ceiling, leaving a jagged hole about 12 feet wide.

It ended up hitting the railing on the second floor – the damage of which can still be seen today.

In another quirky story, the clock also provided two different times. One clock showed the correct Florida (EST) time and the other clock would be set to Central time - apparently for tourists.

Through its lifetime, the clock has been a fixture at the former courthouse turned Polk County History Center and Genealogical Library. Thanks to the recent refurbishment, and despite modern cell phone technology, it will continue to keep time for those visiting downtown Bartow.

If you’d like to learn more about the clock and other features of the former courthouse, take one of the monthly architectural tours. For more information: