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 Look for a steeplejack rappelling down the Campanile's west face (to photo's right) on June 16. (Bart Nagel Photo)

Cleaning our clocks — just in time

- Time will stop on the Berkeley campus on Monday, June 2 at 8 a.m. That's when the four clocks of Sather Tower, better known as the Campanile, will go still in preparation for a month-long, overdue makeover.

Completed in 1914, the Campanile looms 307 feet over the Berkeley campus. Its four clock mechanisms have not been overhauled in several decades. During the past year, they have consistently lost time or stopped working, providing an easy alibi for tardiness for those who want one. The bearings and gears for the west clock, which faces California Hall, are virtually frozen in place.

During the maintenance period, each of the four internal clock mechanisms will be cleaned and overhauled. The west face clock will be completely restored, including removing and painting the clock hands on that side. On June 16, an intrepid steeplejack will rappel down the west face, secure the 8-foot-long hour hand and 12-foot-long minute hand, unbolt them, and have them hoisted to the upper deck. (A portion of the Esplanade will be cordoned off while the steeplejack is working above.) Restoration of the west face clock will serve as a prototype for the eventual restoration of the other three clocks. Virtually no documentation exists about the clocks' mechanisms — the gears and bearings — so the west face work will also be somewhat exploratory in nature.

Cleaning the Campanile's clocks is the last step in a multiyear project to restore the basic systems of the Tower. This work included replacing exterior lighting, restoring the Tower elevator, and replacing the fire-alarm system. The campus's Deferred Maintenance program has footed the project's $800,000 bill; the clock maintenance will cost an estimated $25,000.

The Campanile's hourly chimes should not be affected by the restoration, so students can at least still monitor how long they've been sunning themselves in Memorial Glade. If all goes, er ... like clockwork, the maintenance will be completed by the end of June.


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