Hudson Clock Tower



The Hudson Clock Tower, spring 2012.

The Hudson Clock Tower is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in all Summit County.

Its construction is due to one man, James W. Ellsworth.

James Ellsworth

James Ellsworth

James Ellsworth was born in Hudson in 1849. His father owned a general store (that still stands as a residence on the southeast corner of E. Main and Division Streets) where he worked as a young boy and man. He went to school at, what is now Western Reserve Academy, graduated at age 19 and went to work in Cleveland as a clerk. From this point on, his name could be included with the names Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, and Eaton. In 1869 he joined a coal mining firm in Chicago as a coal broker, and one year later gained ownership interest. At a time when the country ran on coal, he made millions of dollars in coal mining and coal brokerage. Ellsworth reinvested his money in the banking business and made more millions of dollars.  

Thanks to Ken Krolikowski for the use of his prints of the clock tower and square. His prints and cards can be found on the following sites:

While Ellsworth was making his millions, the town that he had grown up in was falling into disrepair, or better it remained stagnant while the rest of the county grew and prospered. Ellsworth owned homes in Chicago, New York City, Switzerland and Florence, Italy, but it was in his boyhood home where he decided to retire.  

When Ellsworth returned to Hudson in 1907, the streets were all still dirt, there was no city water, no sewers, the school he had attended was closed, and in general, the town looked and smelled like poo.

James Ellsworth purposed to the city counsel that he could remedy some of the problems with his own money. He would build water, sewer and electrical plants. Some of his conditions were that the city would have to line the streets with trees, bury the unsightly overhead electrical wires, and impose a 50 year ban on the sale of alcohol. Many of the townspeople were reluctant to accept money from one of the “Robber Barons.” Ellsworth not only bought the utility plants, he also made several other improvements to the town including the reopening of Western Reserve Academy.

Thanks to Summit Memory and the Ruth Wright Clinefelter Postcard Collection for the use of this card.

Around the corner of Aurora and Main streets, Ellsworth made two significant improvements. On the site of a burnt out building, he built the building that housed a landmark near and dear to Hudsonites for many years, Saywell’s Drug Store. Across Main Street from Saywell’s on the northwest corner of “the green” is what some say is James Ellsworth’s greatest gift to the city of Hudson.  

In 1912 Ellsworth contracted New York architect Henry Hardenburg to design and build a clock tower. Hardenburg built the 44′ 9” tower in the Romanesque style.

Thanks to Erik Breedon for this view of the mechanical workings of the clock tower.

The original clockworks were supplied by the E. Howard Clock Company of Boston. The gravitational pull of 3000 lbs of weights powered the clock and Westminster chimes. It came under the duty of the town marshal to climb the interior of the clock and wind the weights back up every few days. The weights were replaced by an electric motor approximately 20 years ago. Fountains were built on the north and west sides. Water would bubble out for humans on one side and fall into a trough for the horses. Today the basins are used as flower pots. Also, originally there was a large flagpole mounted on top. During the Christmas season of 1965, a large gray burlap mouse was added to the decorations. It has returned every year since (though occasionally someone has shot the mouse with a bow and arrow.)   

Thanks to Ken Krolikowski for the use of his prints of the clock tower and square. His prints and cards can be found on the following sites:

I grew up in Boston Township, but attended Hudson schools (kid from the other side of the tracks.) My father had a landscaping business and we would often work “in town.” I remember counting the chimes and determining what part of the hour it was and/or counting the gongs to determine the hour. I and many others have been in good company. John D. Rockefeller sometimes had his chauffeur drive him out from Cleveland just before noon on a summer day to sit on a park bench and listen to the Westminster chimes.    

Another tidbit that didn’t fit in the above story, but I found interesting;   

-When James Ellsworth was 12, President Lincoln was on his way to Washington D.C. when his train stopped in Hudson. Though his words were few, it made enough of a impression on young James that later in life he would collect several of Lincoln’s personal items. He would also name his only son Lincoln. Lincoln Ellsworth would become a famous aviator and explorer making several expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic.   



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