New London group faces towering challenge to restore clock

Talk of returning the iconic clock tower to Ocean Beach Park seems to resurface every few years, if not like clockwork, at least with predictable regularity.

And so it is again.

Former City Clerk Clark van der Lyke and businessman Jeff Suntup are forming a committee to raise the funds and find sponsorships to develop plans for a new tower and get it constructed.

The last serious bid to do so took place in 2012. As was the case back then, we express support for the effort while acknowledging the challenges.

Back then the nonprofit group Save Ocean Beach, which has done so much for New London's biggest attraction, was pursuing the goal of returning the centrally located tower to its place high above the boardwalk. SOB’s experience should be tapped in this latest effort.

The city erected the 100-foot steel-frame tower, with its four clock faces, as part of reconstruction that followed the 1938 Hurricane. It stood until 1988, when it came crashing down during a botched attempt to lower it by crane for maintenance work.

Until its demise, the instructions, "I'll meet you at the clock tower," were an Ocean Beach tradition.

Still to be determined is whether the base that served as the foundation for the old tower still has the integrity to support a new one. That would save a lot of money. Also in question is whether it should be a reproduction or include some concessions to modernity. Inclusion of a cellular antenna array could defray costs.

Some are cringing over the suggestion that instead of mechanical clock faces — more costly and susceptible to operational problems — digital screens could display a traditional clock face look and perhaps push ads to raise revenue.

Planners should keep an open mind.

We repeat a suggestion we made in 2012. Create a contest to come up with a design that is true to the spirit of the original tower but with touches that give a new tower its own identity. Extra points for an economical design.

Once again, we endorse the goal to again have a tower serving as the signpost signaling that this is New London’s Ocean Beach Park, a special place.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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