Time stands still: Campanile clock takes a break

Anissa Nishioka/File

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Each hour, the Campanile tolls, reminding students to hurry to class, finish up meetings and mark the passage of time. But students glancing up at the clock this week were met with confusion — one of the clocks appeared to be broken.

In this case, it was the north-facing clock that was broken, with the other three clocks still reporting the right time. Karen Lobo, associate director of Facilities Services, said the clock was broken because of a failed motor. Campus Facilities Services had a backup motor, which was installed, and the failed motor was sent out for refurbishment.

On Monday, when campus junior Sahil Chawla got out early from his economics class, he looked up at the face of the Campanile to check the time.

“According to the clock, I got out eight hours early, which didn’t make any sense,” Chawla said. “I had to double-check, and I realized the clock was off.”

The staff at the Campanile was not able to give a definite answer for when the issue first arose, but campus junior Conrad Brenneman, who works at the Campanile, said he noticed that it was broken last Friday. As of Wednesday morning, the clock had been fixed.

Each of the four clocks on the Campanile operates independently, according to Brenneman. There is different machinery in place for each face, and the machinery was all handmade when the tower was built in 1914. That’s why the clock faces will sometimes show slightly different times. It also means that when one clock breaks, the other ones keep working — but fixing a broken clock is no easy feat, Brenneman said.

“The tower is over 100 years old,” Brenneman said. “All the parts were custom made back then. You can’t just go to the store and get a new one.”


Contact Madeleine Gregory at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.