Tall Clocks Return to Woodlawn, Students Enjoy Antique Clock Specialist Visit

The Woodlawn tall clocks are ticking and chiming once again and local 5th graders have a better understanding of the the history and workings of clocks thanks to Harry Hepburn, owner of Antique Clock Repair Service, Harrison, Maine.

The inner workings of two of the three tall clocks in the Woodlawn collection came back to Ellsworth in December after a careful restoration and cleaning by Hepburn at his shop in Harrison. Hepburn has specialized in antique clock repair since 1968. He also owns Hermitage Antiques and has participated as a dealer at the Ellsworth Antiques Show at Woodlawn for the past two years. According to Woodlawn executive director, Joshua Torrance, “After this year’s show, Harry took two of our tall clocks for some much needed repair and service. It has been a number of years since the clocks have worked and we are pleased to once again have all three in working condition.”

The clocks, handcrafted by renown clock makers in their time period have significant historic connections to members of the Black family. The clock that many visitors are most familiar with is an Aaron Willard clock that stands in the main hallway of the Black House and was a gift from General Henry Jackson to John Black. Aaron Willard was a Massachusetts clock maker in the early 19th century and was known for his fine workmanship and detailed clock faces that reflect phases of the moon along with other scenes, often ships and villages. Hepburn noted that Willard clocks always have a flag somewhere on the face, most often the American flag. The Woodlawn clock has an unusual flag found on the sail of the ship. Hepburn researched the flag and found it to be a signal flag for the letter “J”. It caused him to wonder if it perhaps it was used to denote its original owner, Henry Jackson.

The other tall clock repaired by Hepburn was one of two in the Woodlawn collection with workings by John Barr of Port Glasgow, Scotland. The John Barr clocks date mid to late 18th century. Barr’s clocks were known for their fine quality mechanical works and stylish cases. Hepburn repaired the Barr clock on the second floor landing which is said to have been the property of David Cobb, the father of Mary Cobb Black. Cobb was aide de camp to George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. Hepburn was able to make adjustments to the second Barr clock that sets in the Black House library while he was in Ellsworth.

Hepburn worked with Woodlawn staff to help them understand the inner workings of each clock and how to wind them. He visited the 5th grade classes at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School with an antique clock display and talked with the students about the history of clocks, the different types of mechanisms, pendulums, weights, springs, etc. His visit to the school brought the number of students receiving educational experiences through Woodlawn outreach and campus based programs to 965 in 2015.