A sign from the Readfield Historical Society was placed at the Readfield Union Meeting House Aug. 14 to mark the building’s historic significance. Emily Duggan/Kennebec Journal file

READFIELD — In 1930, Readfield businessman and former Waterville Mayor Leon O. Tebbetts purchased a community clock for the Readfield Union Meeting House tower, an iconic fixture in the town.

The nearly century-old clock has since stopped working, but now the Readfield Union Meeting House board is leading a project to restore it. It is just one aspect of a multi-faceted restoration project at the building.

The Readfield Union Meeting House clock is in the process of being restored and will return to the town on Sept. 24. Courtesy of the Readfield Union Meeting House Board of Directors

According to meeting house treasurer and clock restoration project manager John Perry, and town historian Marius Peladeau, the Union Meeting House has been a part of Readfield since 1828. Since 1859 its tower has contained a bronze bell, which at first was rung to call congregations and celebrate local events, but later used with the clock.

The clock required weekly upkeep, including winding and oiling, in order to keep perfect time. But as Meeting House attendance dropped in the 1940s and ’50s, the clock would sometimes stop.

It was around this time that resident Ernest Bracy stepped up and organized with friends to ensure the building was weathertight, and that its clock was well-maintained.

Perry said Bracy was a neighbor of the Readfield Union Meeting House and, in order to ensure the clock was continually maintained, worked to revise the company’s charter to allow for public funding for the maintenance and upkeep of the building and its clock.

The charter named three trustees: Bracy, Hector Cadarett and Dorothy Lanctot.

“There is no specific record of how they prioritized the clock relative to all the other items of maintenance and upkeep, as well as the task of fundraising,” Perry said. “It is likely, however, that they would have kept the clock running to illustrate that the building was still quite alive and worthy of public support.”

By the ’80s and ’90s, Bracy and others were not able to continue maintaining the clock on a weekly basis, so Bracy had an electric motor installed to ensure time was precisely kept.

But with nobody going up to oil the clock wheels, it eventually stopped.

“One morning at 8:09, the clock, quite literally, ground to a halt,” Perry wrote.

But recently, members of the meeting house have raised money to restore the clock and return it to the historic building. Perry said it is currently being repaired by David Graf of New Hampshire, and is set to return later this month. It will be put on display Sept. 24 during a small ceremony.

Fundraising Committee member Cindy McInerney said the project is being funded with a grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and a fundraising campaign.

Perry said the project itself, including the construction of three replica clock dials, is $43,000. The grant, which used funds provided by the National Park Service, totaled $8,450. So far $21,255 has been donated to the project.

The clock was brought to Graf’s workshop in late 2020, and Building House Committee members James Tukey, Larry Dunn, John Neptune, Peladeau and Perry were all involved in planning the restoration for about two years.

And while the clock will soon return to Readfield, Perry said this is only one part of the organization’s broader goal.

“Our major effort these days is getting ready for structural and aesthetic restoration of the clock tower and belfry, complete with installation of replica spire and weathervane. We are also currently renovating the adjacent building (the vestry) that will serve as a community gathering place for meals, for social activities, receptions, etc.,” Perry said.

He added that all of the group’s projects are the result of what Bracy started nearly 70 years ago. In addition to caring for the clock itself, Perry said Bracy’s work included stabilizing the building’s foundation, replacing the roof, rebuilding the floor structure, conserving the 150-year-old trompe l’oeil artwork on the walls and ceiling, maintaining the rare stenciled glass windows, along with introducing hundreds of visitors to the town’s historic building.

“We’re looking forward to getting everything back in shape for the Meeting House’s 200th birthday in 2028,” Perry said.

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