Old Town Hall Clock: Still Ticking After Almost 175 Years

Written by Adam Jenkins
The Old Town Hall Clock is an iconic fixture in Marietta, but how many of us know the history behind it?
The clock was originally purchased by the Marietta Borough Council in September of 1852 from Mr. Sylvester Penfield of New York City. Crowds gathered as the clock mechanism, and 1,000 pound bell that went with it, were unloaded from a canal boat the next month.
Today the clock operates almost exactly as it did when it was brand new. It is entirely mechanical and requires a weekly winding of both the timekeeping elements and the bell-striking elements. The six foot by six foot “room” which houses the gears is accessible only by a steep ladder and trap door on the third floor of Old Town Hall.
The clockwinder gets quite a workout when resetting the weights that move the gears. Winding the weights from the first floor up to the third floor requires several minutes of strenuous exertion on the part of the clockwinder, in conditions that aren’t climate controlled.
The clock room is “decorated” with the signatures of clockwinders from the recent and distant past (some are dated back to the early 1900s). The current clockwinder is Doug Wherely, who took over the duties from longtime winder Bill Libhart several years ago.
Maintaining and repairing such an old clock requires specialized “know-how” that is hard to find in this day and age when most timepieces are electronic and automated. When the clock or bell start giving an inaccurate time, a specialist must be called in to restore the accuracy. With so few people qualified to do the work in 2022, it can sometimes take weeks or months to get the clock or bell fixed.