Photograph by Luke J. Spencer
This week, Untapped Cities received a tip that the Barthman Clock, the quirky timepiece embedded in the sidewalk at the intersection of Maiden Lane and Broadway, had been removed! This unique marketing tool installed by the owner of William Barthman Jewelers has been part of the sidewalk for over a century and the reason for its disappearance, and whether the clock is coming back, is a mystery. [Update: The clock is back!]
Jeweler William Barthman came up with the idea to put a clock in the sidewalk in front of his business to lure customers inside in 1896. In 1899 a clock designed by Barthman and his employee Frank Homm was installed. This clock was very technologically advanced for its time with hidden lightbulbs that illuminated the clock-face at night and an innovative battery backup. When Homm died in 1917, no one knew how to maintain it, so in 1925 Barthman replaced his and Homm’s design with a traditional round faced clock, the casing of which you can still see today.
The clock before restoration
Barthman Jewelers moved a few doors down from its original location on Broadway, but remained on the same block for 130 years. With the recent closure of Barthman’s Manhattan location, some presume the clock has been removed with the business. There is a Barthman Jewelers location in Brooklyn and a new Manhattan location set to open in the fall.
The refurbished clock which returned in late November
Instagram users have noted that the clock has been in disrepair for weeks and a photo posted to Reddit shows the clock with shattered glass. Since the most recent photograph of the site shows what appears to be a new piece of glass, we can hope that the clock is simply out for repairs and may be tucked back into the sidewalk soon. Untapped Cities reached out to Barthman Jewelers for comment, but has not received a response yet.
Next, check out 13 Unique NYC Sidewalk Installations