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Grand Forks museum acquires historic timepiece

123-year-old clock once hung Phoenix and Grand Fork’s banks
Boundary Museum and Archives board president Christopher Stevenson talks about the clock the museum just acquired that is a prominent piece of the Boundary region’s history. It hung up in banks in Phoenix and Grand Forks, as well as the Grand Forks library before it found its new home in the museum’s front entrance. Photo Karen McKinley

A piece of the Boundary region’s history has a new home and the president of the Grand Forks museum’s board is calling it a great showpiece of the region’s shared history.

A clock has been in the area since 1898 and has moved from Phoenix to various locations in Grand Forks is now prominently hanging up in the Boundary Museum and Archives front entrance. The clock was officially unveiled on Canada Day with much fanfare and details on the known history of the clock.

While the clock is a visually-stunning piece, it’s also an example of the shared history of the region, said Christopher Stevenson.

“To some people, it’s just a clock, but it’s a magnificent piece,” he said. “The significance of the ties between Grand Forks and Phoenix makes it valuable. It’s a connection to the early days of prosperity that was all over the place here.”

The nearly eight-foot tall, wall-mounted clock first hung up in the Eastern Townships Bank in Phoenix from 1899 to 1912. The clock was then moved to what is now the CIBC in Grand Forks, where it hung until about 1984, Stevenson said.

Then it was moved to storage in the Grand Forks Public Library’s basement, then hung up in the library.

“I had seen the clock in the library and thought it was pretty cool clock,” he said. “I think I did some research on it before, then about a year ago Cari Lyn Gawletz (Grand Forks Public Library director) called me and asked if we wanted the clock because they were doing renovations and decided there wasn’t room for the clock, anymore.”

At the time, Stevenson said he wasn’t aware of the significance of the clock’s history, but once he found out, he called it one of the biggest, most magnificent pieces of Phoenix still in existence.

Several groups and individuals came together to help move and restore the clock. First, it needed repair to get it working again. Library staff asked if anyone at the museum knew who could help.

Stevenson contacted Victor Kienas, who specializes in watch and clock repair, whom he knows through his hobby of collecting watches.

ReStore Grand Forks helped move the clock from the library to the museum. At that point, they were unsure where to put it, but ultimately decided on what used to be a coat closet facing the front entrance of the museum. This required renovating to make it an alcove and reinforcing the walls.

Contractor Jacob Franklin was doing renovations at Stevenson’s home and offered to do the work.

“He was working on my bathroom and I mentioned this and took him up to the museum and he said ‘I’ll volunteer my time and do this for you,’” Stevenson said.

It came down to the wire for renovations and tuning the clock, with everything completed within one hour of the unveiling, he said. While the clock came to them in working order, Kienas offered to do maintenance before the unveiling. However, once the clock was mounted, it began working as it should.

Now that it’s up, it’s not just a nice piece of history, it’s how much Grand Forks and the region has come to rely on the museum to preserve its history.

“It shows the community and the region trusts us with preserving its history,” he said. “All the people that came together to help us with getting this clock, repairing it and helping us put it in the museum lets us know they know we are doing great work here.”

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