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Old meets new: Grandfather clock makes new home at City Hall

The still running grandfather clock that now makes its home in City Hall was built sometime in the 1890s. Pictured with the clock is Angie Bond, River Falls Municipal Utilities customer service representative. <i>Jillian Dexheimer photo</i>

Modern design, green building and an 1890s grandfather clock -- all features of City Hall.

Many customers have noticed the antique and have asked about its story.

"It's become a real topic of conversation," said Angie Bond, River Falls Municipal Utilities customer service representative. "People ask how old it is, who C.F. Winter is and comment on how beautiful it is.

"People say, 'It looks like it is meant to be where it is.'"

First built in the 1890s, the seven-foot clock is believed to have been bought by C.F. Winter, who owned a jewelry store on South Main Street. It is thought that he bought the clock for $300.

After his death, Mrs. Winter and Herb Helmer started a store, Winter-Helmer. Eventually Winter-Helmer downsized and there was no room for the large clock.

It was then sold to the city for $25 -- which would have made Winter, a founding father of the city, proud.

In 1937 the clock was placed in the city's power plant. The clock remained there, except from 1978-1983 when it was housed at the utility office on Elm Street.

During its tenure at the power plant the clock kept such accurate time that it was used to keep the city's electric clocks on time.

Requiring winding every eight days, the grandfather clock needs to have carefully balanced pendulums to be accurate.

Bond, who does the windings, said, "It's simple to do the windings. I got the 'training' from the former power plant employees."

The clock, being well made, has required very little upkeep to maintain accurate time.

With the power plant's closing last year, the stately clock has moved to its new home -- City Hall, 222 Lewis Street.

According to Bond, it took Utilities employees Brian 'the clock master' Hatch, Bruce Lloyd and Bob Schwalen two days to move the clock to City Hall.

"It was very tedious work -- they had to take the insides out," said Bond.

Though still running 120 years later it is no longer as accurate as it was. Some of that is due to temperature fluctuations at City Hall.

River Falls Municipal Utilities has pieced together the clock's history by using public records.

They encourage anyone with additional information to contact RFMU at 715-425-0906.

If you have not seen the C.F. Winter grandfather clock, stop down at City Hall to take a look. It's standing tall by the customer service desk on the main floor.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046