Watch Where You’re Walking! Don’t Miss Lower Manhattan’s Famous Sidewalk Clock

Watch Where You’re Walking! Don’t Miss Lower Manhattan’s Famous Sidewalk Clock

What time is it? Time to look down into the sidewalk and into a unique piece of Lower Manhattan’s history. 

Visitors to the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane may walk right by — or over — one of the neighborhood’s hidden treasures without even realizing it: it’s Barthman’s clock, a timepiece embedded in the sidewalk, dating back to 1899.

The clock, lined with Roman numbers and lodged in a brass compass rose circle directly in the sidewalk, was originally an advertising gimmick. It was installed in the late 19th century to draw customers into William Barthman Jewelers, which was located right behind it. 

“It was installed at a time when Maiden Lane was the equivalent of 47th Street today,” John Teifert, vice president of the Horological Society of New York, told NY1. “At that time, Maiden Lane was full of jewelry and watch dealers.” 

The original William Barthman Jewelers location is gone — it now has two locations, at 20 Broad Street and in Brooklyn, respectively — but the clock has remained. It’s been rebuilt over the years: first because the original clock’s designer, Frank Homm, died in 1917 and was the only one who knew how to fix its original unique mechanical jump design with numbered tablets. Then, in recent years, the clock showed wear and tear from street use and damage from deliveries rolling over top. In 2018, it underwent major repairs, with contractors entering through the former jewelry building and working just inches from the busy street above, according to NY1. 

Barthman’s has an agreement with the building’s owner to keep the clock in working order, but the site has yet to be landmarked, so its future is uncertain. 

“How many millions of footsteps have walked along that clock face?” Tom Bernardin, founder and president of Save America’s Clocks, asked NY1. “It’s a way to visit the past. Not to sound too corny or drawn about it, but it’s a way to say hello to those people. You can’t beat that.”

photo: Richard Levine / Alamy Stock Photo

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