I like big clocks, and I cannot lie!
In January 2020 I wrote about the Town Center Clock in Mesa, AZ. I saw the clock in downtown Mesa and thought it was interesting, so I took some photos. Then I shared the photos of the clock and its story with you!
I had forgotten that Santa Fe, NM has a big clock of its own. I saw the clock again during a brief visit to Santa Fe last month (March 2020).
The clock is the Spitz clock, and it’s been all over the Santa Fe Plaza.
According to the plaque at the base of the clock, the “Spitz Jewelry Store was established on the Plaza in 1881.” A clock without works was placed in front of the store as an advertisement. Around the turn of the 20th century, the fake clock was “replaced by a functioning sidewalk clock which stood until 1915 when it was knocked down by one of the first motor trucks in Santa Fe.” The third clock is the one you see in my photos today.
The third Spitz Clock…was purchased second-hand by Salamon Spitz in 1916 and was brought to Santa Fe from Kansas City. It stood in front of the Spitz Jewelry Story until the Plaza’s south portal was built in 1967. The clock was donated to the citizens of Santa Fe by Bernard Spitz, and was erected on this site in June of 1974.
(You can see a photo from that dedication of the clock in the New Mexico Digital Collections.)
The Spitz Clock was built by the clock makers E. Howard and Company. Howard clocks were ubiquitous around the country on city squares…but Santa Fe’s is believed to be the last one with its original gears still intact. Others around the country have had their inner works, which have to be wound, replaced with electronics.
The aforementioned 2011 Albuquerque Journal article was all about how the clock wasn’t doing too well.
The gold leaf around the face is cracking, and seeping water has caused the clock to deteriorate. Also, it becomes far less reliable in the winter.
The clock wasn’t running at all during my visit, and the protective covering over its face was quite clouded. In 2011, some folks wanted to find the clock a new indoor home, but nine years later, it’s still outside. At the time the Albuquerque Journal article was written, there was talk about renovating the Spitz Clock.
Santa Fe Parks Director Fabian Chavez said a small ad-hoc committee is looking into options, including a full renovation of the clock, or finding it a spot inside and putting a replacement piece in the same location…
A weather-proofing restoration of the Spitz Clock would run about $5,000, according to Mary Chavez, senior vice president of First National Bank…and a member of the committee.
I have mixed feelings about what I think should happen to the clock. On the one hand, I like having a piece of history right outside in public where locals and visitors alike can look at it whenever they want. On the other hand, this piece of history is deteriorating. Maybe the clock could be put on display inside of the Santa Fe Place Mall or the DeVargas Center.
The committee that was trying to find a solution for preserving the clock in 2011 wanted it to be donated to the New Mexico History Museum, but the museum turned it down.
[A] museum spokesperson said it’s too tall to fit into an exhibit, and doesn’t fit in “architecturally” in the lobby.
Wherever the clock ends up (and probably the best and easiest way to preserve it is to move it indoors), I hope a replacement clock is put in the Spitz Clock’s present location, and I hope any replacement is a replica of the current clock. Otherwise, I think visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza would miss seeing an old-fashioned clock on the corner of Lincoln and Palace Avenues.