Volunteers are working to get an 18-foot-tall antique street clock in Alamosa ticking again

· Aug. 14, 2023, 4:00 am
A downtown Alamosa street scene circa 1929 featuring the Velhagen Brothers Jewelry clock (at left) on State Avenue.A downtown Alamosa street scene circa 1929 featuring the Velhagen Brothers Jewelry clock (at left) on State Avenue.City of Alamosa
A downtown Alamosa street scene circa 1929 featuring the Velhagen Brothers Jewelry clock (at left) on State Avenue.

A $30,000 restoration is underway for an antique street clock in Alamosa which was nearly junked decades ago.

Velhagen Brothers Jewelry, which is no longer in business, installed the ornate cast-iron clock on the sidewalk in front of its downtown store in 1912.  Exactly when and why it was removed some 50 years later isn’t clear, according to Alamosa city planning technician Beata Ramza. She said it may have been due to street repairs or possibly because of a car accident.

“I don't know what kind of condition it was back then,” Ramza said, but the city was going to get rid of it until "local resident John Davis offered to help the city with the sewer and piping for the street work in exchange for the clock.”

Davis and John Olson, both machinists, started fixing the clock. It was a slow process, Ramza said. They got one of the internal mechanisms working again. But Ramza said Davis passed away and in 2014 the clock was given back to the city and put in storage. Now the city and its Historic Preservation Advisory Committee and other volunteers are working together to restore it.

City of Alamosa
The so-called Velhagen Street Clock stands near the intersection of State Avenue and Main Street in Alamosa circa 1927.

Even though there are no markings on the 18-foot-tall timepiece to indicate its manufacturer, Ramza said experts told her it was made by the renowned Seth Thomas Clock Company, which was better known for mantelpiece clocks. 

Ramza said her sources told her this clock is likely one of just 200 street clocks produced by the company and nine still in existence, mostly on the east coast. Although the huge timepiece had broken and rusted over time, Ramza said only a few pieces were missing or unusable.

City of Alamosa
Internal mechanisms from the so-called Velhagen Street clock in Alamosa before restoration work.

“They were made to last because even though it is in really bad shape,” she said, ”it seems like it's going to be totally restorable.”

Some of the repairs include painting the face and numbers, refinishing the exterior and getting some other internal mechanisms running again. Another part of the project will include automating the clock, which will cost an additional $4,000.

“As much as I love the idea of going and hand-winding it every eight days,” Ramza said, “it's something that we want in our downtown area and we want it to be a functional historic landmark and so we need it to be on time and really easy.”

Ramza said they also hope to collect stories about the clock from people who remember it.

The restoration project work is funded by donations and a recent $5,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Many local businesses and residents are contributing time, labor and materials too, Ramza said.

The city wants to reinstall the clock by next spring. The location is not firm yet, but it might become part of a cultural trail that is currently taking shape that will connect the city's riverfront park with Main Street and the local history museum. 

City of Alamosa
Some of the parts from the Velhagen Street Clock in storage in Alamosa.

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