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Old North Church historic clock dating back to 1726 reinstalled after restoration project

The Avery-Bennett gallery clock, closing in on its 300th birthday, was reinstalled Wednesday at the Old North Church and Historic Site.
The Avery-Bennett gallery clock, closing in on its 300th birthday, was reinstalled Wednesday at the Old North Church and Historic Site.Courtesy of Old North Church + Historic Site

As it has for nearly three centuries, the clock is ticking again.

Boston’s Old North Church and Historic Site marked a moment of hope and renewal on Wednesday when its iconic Avery-Bennett gallery clock was reinstalled after a two-month restoration project.

“It really does give you a deep sense of place within the church and a tangible connection to the people who came before,” said Nikki Stewart, executive director of the church and historic site.

The clock has survived the American Revolution and Civil War, ticked impassively above the Marquis de Lafayette and Queen Elizabeth II, and stood tall during cultural and political transformations, from the Colonies winning independence to the desegregation of congregations and a 13-month church shutdown during the pandemic, officials said in a statement.

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“We just reopened [to visitors] about eight or nine weeks ago,” Stewart said. “We are truly rebuilding our organization at this point.”

The clock was built in 1726 by Richard Avery, and its case was fashioned by Thomas Bennett, proprietor of pew number 56 in the church, at a cost of 12 shillings, officials said. Remarkably, Avery and Bennett had never built such a timepiece before, yet the clock works “like typical grandfather clocks” created in the present day, officials said.

Refurbishing it remains a family affair. The man who completed the latest round of repairs was Ken Pearson, 70, of Gloucester, a “relative of Simon Willard, father of Simon Junior and Benjamin F. Willard, who cleaned the Avery-Bennett gallery clock in 1823 and 1830,” officials said.

Pearson, who owns Time Machines Past and Present in Wenham, said clocks incorporate a number of scholarly disciplines.

“My father went to watchmaking school on the G.I. Bill and soon after became a clockmaker — I guess you could say it runs in my family,” Pearson said in the statement. “I like clocks because they combine aesthetic and mechanical attributes, science and art, engineering and beauty.”

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The Avery-Bennett clock has a polychrome red case with bronze moldings, as well as a black dial face and bronze sunburst behind its hands. On the back are a dozen signatures from people who worked on the clock over generations.

“There are hundreds of thousands of different types of clocks in the world, each with their own story to tell,” Pearson said in the statement. “Clockmaking and repair take a special kind of precision and patience that will keep this trade alive. No machine can replace the human touch. The profession is timeless if you will.”

The clock and other artifacts will be on view throughout the summer. Admission is $5. Children under 5 get in free.

Patrons on a guided tour can also walk through box pews, take in the angels flanking the church’s 1759 organ, and gaze at the bust of George Washington, which Lafayette reportedly called “the best likeness” of Washington he’d ever seen, officials said.

The church and historical site is open this summer on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to its website.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.