Could clock renew 'confidence' in downtown Bremerton?

When workers finally erected the vintage Jorgen Nelson clock in front of the Kitsap County Historical Museum, it was as if the stretch of remodeled Fourth Street between Washington and Pacific was finally finished.

Up and running and officially dedicated yesterday, the 20-foot-tall clock with its great, yard-wide glowing dial gives personality and force of character to the downtown core.

“It makes a strong statement,” said retired Navy Capt. Paul Middents, who coordinated the year-long effort to restore the public timepiece. “Jorgen Nelson made a strong statement when he first erected the clock in front of his jewelry store on Pacific. This was after his store suffered a fire. I think this makes a strong statement now about the confidence we have in Bremerton’s future.”

Restoring a 70-plus-year-old clock to pristine perfection wasn’t easy.

“There were a lot of challenges along the way in getting such a big, old rusty thing like that back together,” said Middents. “The rain has revealed a few leaks at the top, so we’ve still got to get in there and caulk things up.”

Total cost of restoration of the one-ton clock was $8,800. The group restoring the timepiece — a cooperative effort between the Kitsap County Historical Society Museum, the city of Bremerton, and the Tacoma chapter of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) — raised $7,000 in cash, donated materials and labor.

Donations are still being accepted to make up the shortfall. The museum has just gotten started on a major storage-area remodel and donations for this and the clock are being accepted. Call 479-6226.

Middents listed those who helped — either by donating labor and materials outright, or by giving discounts on same:

“The gold leaf was donated by Dick Peel, who grew up in Bremerton and who owns DPA Signs in Seattle,” he said. “His father is Ralph Peel (of Kitsap) who’s a member of NAWCC.”

Ernie Lopez, a local restorer, applied the 2,000 sheets of 22K gold leaf.

“He spent 100 hours gold leafing,” said Middents. “The process of applying gold leaf outdoors is much different — and more difficult — than applying it to a picture frame.”

Middents said a nice surprise was the donation of a pair of rare globes for the outside decoration of the clock. These were donated by Dave Hong of Duval, who grew up in Central Kitsap.

Dale Brittingham — now retired — of Brit’s Signs of Bremerton, restored the dials. The movement was restored by Leon Jaussaud of Timely Investments Inc. of Port Orchard. Clock and watchmaker Jerry Martin — who did an earlier restoration of the movement — helped this time with tools, and donated a reproduction winding crank.

Dale Gerber of Kitsap Gold Plating and Powder Coating of Poulsbo donated the powder-coat finish in “British racing green” for the exterior. The case of the clock was disassembled into six major pieces by city workers and the old paint was stripped by Blast Rite of SeaTac. Uptown Auto donated part of the cost of creating new finials.

The team of restorers approached owners of an identical clock in Seattle’s Pioneer Square to get the patterns for the lamps and finials. New aluminum castings for the lamps were partially donated by Port Townsend Foundry. The greatest cost of the restoration was in the lamps and finials: $6,000. Doug Barley of East Bremerton helped with cast iron welding.

Other contributors included Bremerton Central Lions, Bremerton Rotary, East Bremerton Rotary, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Helen Langer Smith, chairman of Kitsap Bank, said Middents.

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