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In Old Town Roseville, the times they are a changing

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
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Psst! Got the time? If you're anywhere near the intersection of Lincoln and Main streets in Old Town Roseville, there's no need to check your watch “ or anyone else's. That's thanks to the recent installation of a new 10-foot, nine-inch tall, antique-style clock, which stands sentry on a sidewalk bulb-out in front of Main Street Brewery. And while the clock cuts a dashing figure for a timepiece, don't expect to hear its bells echoing throughout the area any time soon: it doesn't chime. The chronometer is just one of several architectural features “ including an almost-completed railroad viewing platform at the intersection of Lincoln and Pacific streets “ being realized as part of a $9.2 million streetscape and infrastructure improvement project designed to make the area more inviting for businesses and shoppers. The idea for the clock was for it to be something that could be a central point of orientation for Historic Roseville so people could say, ˜meet me at the clock,' said Piches Architecture owner Dave Piches, who scouted several clock designs before landing on the chosen model. Whatever you do, though, don't call it a clock tower. It's not a clock tower, obviously, because it's not very tall, Piches said. Indeed. Dubbed a post clock, it's actually a scaled-down replica of a larger, 15-foot model manufactured around the turn of the century by the E. Howard Clock Co., said Brandie Morris, a spokeswoman for Electric Time, the Massachusetts-based company that produces the timepiece, aptly called the Howard. We came out with the smaller one for scale issues, she said. You always want a clock in scale with your surroundings. The original could be a bit large. The four-faced clock, which Morris said costs about $15,000, recalls an earlier time with its filigree of gold-leaf accents all the way down a black, cast-aluminum body. But the exterior is where the clock's similarities with yesteryear end. Inside, ultra-modern components prevail: A remote control sets the clock's timing mechanism, which includes a global positioning system for satellite synchronization backup. (On a visit early this week, the clock had been correctly adjusted for daylight saving time.) And neon illumination is powered by a photovoltaic cell. All that modern kit might be just as well. Old Town Roseville doesn't have a strong history of public timepieces, said Phoebe Astill, curator of the Roseville Historical Society. Citizen's Bank “ now First Bank on Vernon Street “ years ago had a clock hung from the side of the building, but a fancy clock like the one they have now, I don't ever remember one of those, she said. The completion of Downtown's City Center in 2002 brought back a public clock, a stylized chronograph fronting Washington Boulevard, Astill said. Regardless of its historical antecedent, Kenny Gowan, a partner with Basic Urban Kitchen, a bar and grill under construction at 112 Pacific St. around the corner from the clock, said it's a great centerpiece for the historic district. It's going to be a nice little meeting spot because you can't miss it, he said. And that's not the only benefit. It's the first thing I see when I roll in off the bridge right there, so I can see if I'm late or not. Reach Nathan Donato-Weinstein at nathand@goldcountrymedia.com