The big clock by the river Colgate Clock still an icon in Jersey City
by Ricardo Kaulessar Reporter staff writer
Oct 15, 2007 | 7292 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
These days, Jersey City is identified by every new high rise tower that springs up on its shores or further inland -the Goldman Sachs building at 30 Hudson Street, Trump Plaza, and other buildings.

And then there's Liberty State Park, Newport and other historic locations that spring to mind when one thinks of New Jersey's second largest city.

But there was a time when people looking across the Hudson River knew where Jersey City was when they had to find the time - the Colgate Clock.

The octagon-shaped clock, once located on the Colgate & Company factory building near the Jersey City waterfront, now sits on an empty lot; relocated several times after Colgate left New Jersey.

The clock sits about a couple hundred feet away from the Goldman Sachs Tower, and there have been discussions about eventually relocating the clock in order to utilize the land around it for development. Residents nearby would like to see the land developed into a park.

But for now, the 50-foot wide clock is fenced in at its base, but still visible for tourists sailing on Circle Line cruise ships (where it is pointed out that the clock is the one of the largest in the world) and for residents to still be impressed.How the clock started ticking

The funny thing about the Colgate Clock is that this is actually the new version.

The current clock was built in 1924. It is considered the world's largest clock with a 50' diameter face, and a minute hand that is 25' long. The design was based on Colgate's Octagon Soap.

The current Colgate Clock replaced an earlier clock designed by Colgate engineer Warren Day, which was constructed by the Seth Thomas Clock Company for the centennial of the Colgate Company in 1906. That clock had a face measuring 37 1/2 feet in diameter and covering an area of 1,104 square feet. It was installed on the roof of one of the Colgate factory buildings along with its sign that was about 20 feet high.

In a 1988, a New York Times article on the Colgate Clock, noted that the sign was "illuminated by 1,607 bulbs outlining the letters, hands and hour marks, totaling 28,000 watts."

The original clock and sign still exist in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where Colgate maintains a functioning factory. Reactions to the clock

Ian Macallen, a Jersey City resident who runs an Internet blog, offered this statement about the clock:

"Boston has the Citgo sign. Jersey City has the Colgate Clock. It's an icon, a monument to our history," Macallen said. "But it also embodies the present; the clock stares out over the Hudson River longing for Manhattan like much of the new, gentrified Jersey City."

Jersey City Police Officer David Sanchez photographed the Colgate Clock last year and is displaying a digitally manipulated version of that photo as part of an exhibit of his photos in the City Council Caucus Room in City Hall.

"That clock reminds me of old-time Jersey City, when the factories were still here, when I was growing up in downtown" Sanchez said.

Stephanie Daniels, who resides in the Paulus Hook section of the city, not far from the clock, remembers trips she would take with her daughter on the ferry to Manhattan, and seeing the clock during those trips.

"I love the clock," said Daniels, a 17-year resident. "For me, I like the mix of the old with the new. And it's a cool-looking structure." Could the clock be moved again?

Daniels is also a member of the Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPNA) and is part of the association's "Connect the Parks" initiative, which looks to develop various lots and open space in the Paulus Hook area. That area includes the land on which the clock sits. The land is owned by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Daniels said she has heard talk about moving the clock to accommodate a new park but said she'd like it to stay in the location where it is currently placed.

Gerry Bakirtjy, president of the HPNA, said that he would like to see a new, permanent location for the clock on the Jersey City waterfront, as this clock could be moved again if a park was ever developed on the land.

"There were renderings done of the land as a park, to be called Veteran's Park because the land is owned by the Veterans Affairs," Bakirtjy said. "That does not include the clock since the clock was not on the land at the time of the renderings." For comments on the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com
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