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Clock tower graces 2009 Christmas in Lancaster ornament

By Greg Summers

From a technical standpoint, the color of the 2009 Christmas in Lancaster ornament is listed as pantone color No. 548.

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What does that mean?

It means this year’s collectible tree ornament is “Founders Blue.”

Kept a secret for almost six months, See Lancaster unveiled the ornament  at a reception Monday night at the Springs Gallery on East Gay Street.

And as it was billed, it is indeed representative of the county’s moving from the old to the new.

This year’s ornament is etched with a golden rendering of the restored Springs Cotton Mill’s clock tower that is now at the site of Founders Federal Credit Union’s new corporate center near S.C. 9 Bypass at Plantation and Gillsbrook roads.

The clock tower originally stood in front of the Lancaster Plant on Landsford Road. It was dismantled when the historic textile site " once billed as the world’s largest cotton mill under one roof " was shut down. Its looms had clicked, clacked and shook there for more than a century.

“It was pretty much decided for us,” said Peggy Little, See Lancaster director. “We didn’t need to look any farther than that because of its historical significance. This ornament combines the old with the new and signals how Lancaster is transforming from a textile community to an arts community.

“Springs Industries, the Close family and Founders have given so much to our town through the years and have meant so much to all of us,” Little said. “This was the perfect time to pay homage to all of their contributions.”

Springs decided to demolish the two-story, century-old textile mill in 2003 after determining that it was obsolete.

The clock mechanism was dismantled in September 2004 and given to the city of Lancaster, along with about 4,000 of the tower’s handmade bricks.

The city had planned to rebuild the clock tower downtown, but there were more questions than answers when it came to how the $300,000 project would be funded.

Then, when Founders announced plans to build a new, $32 million, 110,000-square-foot, three-story headquarters, its officials said it would rebuild the clock.

But before the new 40-foot clock tower was built, the clock " an E. Howard timepiece " had to be restored.

It became the burning passion for  Van Wyck craftsman Jim Williams.

Williams, a member of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors for almost 35 years, spent more than 600 hours restoring the one-of-a-kind clock mechanism free of charge.

After photographing and cataloging every piece, he set about reassembling, painting and restoring the timepiece.

Some of the original parts were gone when the mechanism was removed from the clock tower, so Williams set about finding the missing parts.

Those he couldn’t locate were tediously fabricated from walnut and brass.

“I think it’s an absolutely fantastic choice for the ornament,” Williams said. “That clock tower touched so many lives here.

“It’s a part of history and a part of who we are,” Williams said.

“For me, this has been the most rewarding project that I’ve ever been involved with during my lifetime,” Williams said.

The clock tower was completed this past May and the fully restored clock mechanism was installed.

“We’re very proud of how the clock tower turned out and are very excited that See Lancaster thought enough of us to consider using it as this year’s Christmas ornament,” said Bruce Brumfield, Founders president and chief executive officer. Brumfield was at Monday’s ornament unveiling.

“It’s our roots and who we are,” he said. “For Founders to play a part in bringing that back to life is quite an honor.”   

Now on sale

The 2009 Christmas in Lancaster ornament is the tenth in the continuing series of collectible ornaments.

It retails for $8 and is now available at Annette’s Hallmark House, the Purple Rooster, the Welcome Center Gift Shop inside the Springs Gallery and several downtown businesses.

It also includes a brochure that contains ornaments from the previous years and a historical description of each one. A few complete 10-ornament sets are available for $62 and previous ornaments are $6 each.