New York City Clocks – The Silk Clock

The Silk Clock, 470 Park Avenue (corner East 32nd Street), New York City, NY

When you walk around New York City you see all sorts of interesting things. I’m always on the look out for old clocks on the side of buildings. You see them everywhere, especially below Canal. I stumbled on to this one a bit further up town on Park and E. 32nd and was fortunate to find some information about from a 1996 New York Times column. Thought I’d share it.

Q. What is the history of the interesting clock on the building at 470 Park Avenue South, between 31st and 32d Streets? There is a wizard, a man hammering and a woman on it, and they move. What does all this represent?

A. It’s called the Silk Clock, and if you look at it carefully, you can envision a scene out of Arthurian legend, says Conrad Milster, the chief engineer at the Pratt Institute and a clock aficionado. At every hour on the hour, the wizard Merlin raises his wand and taps the squatting blacksmith on the head, who hammers away at King Arthur’s sword, while the Lady of the Lake rises out of the clock’s case. The clock, built in March 1926 by the Seth Thomas Clock Company of Thomaston, Conn., got its name from the building’s original owners, Schwarzbock Looms, who worked in the silk industry. Fittingly, the face of the 2-foot-by-3-foot clock is adorned with a silkworm motif, including mulberry leaves, the worm’s favorite food. But over time, the city’s grime fouled the clock’s mechanism, and it sat idle for several years — no one knows exactly how long — until the building’s current owner, S.L. Green, asked Mr. Milster to restore it in 1984. It’s a New York rarity, says Mr. Milster, in that it’s still run by a weight-driven pendulum. And its whimsical characters create quite a commotion with passers-by when they swing into action, says Darlene LaColla, the building’s concierge. But don’t set your watch by it. Because the five-foot-long pendulum is made of wood, seasonal shifts in the humidity cause shrinkage and expansion, which can tamper with the clock’s accuracy by a few minutes.

Q&A Source: The New York Times:
PHOTO taken: 13 August 2022 with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II,(aperture priority, Olympus M. Zuiko 12-45mm f/4.0 pro lens) 36mm; f/8.0; ISO 200

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