Rome's Tower Clock:
Marking Minutes Since
When in Georgia's Rome, synchronize your
watch with the Old Town Clock. Everyone else does,
because if your timing is different, you're likely to be
late or early as the case may be.
The clock, with its incredible record for
accuracy, is now more than 100 years old and is on the
National Register of Historic Places. More than 946,000
hours of history have been recorded by the sound of this
clock. It continues faithfully to mark Roman's lives with
The 100-foot tower stands atop a grass-covered
knoll and is visible from almost any spot within the
city's limits. It was built in 1871 as Rome's' water
tower. The clock was installed a year later, and though
some changes have been made, the massive four-faced
timepiece still functions efficiently. The story of the
Clock Tower really began in the late 1840's when James
Noble, Sr. of England moved his family of six sons and
several daughters, from reading Pennsylvania to Georgia's
Rome. He purchased property along the banks of the Etowah
River in downtown Rome and built an immense foundry and
machine works. Here, he and his sons manufactured steam
engines and other articles of iron and steel. And when
the South seceded from the Union, the Noble Foundry
converted a large share of its production to cannon for
As time went on, this activity became known to
Federal forces. In 1863, a move was made to approach Rome
from the west, but due to brilliant strategy of the
South's General Nathan Bedford Forrest, it was defeated.
The following year, approaching from the north by way of
Chattanooga and Resaca, the move was successful and
Rome's occupation began.
Months later, General Sherman ordered the
evacuation of Federal troops, the Noble Foundry
destroyed, and most of the downtown area destroyed by
fire. This was months prior to Sherman's success in
Atlanta and his subsequent march to the sea.
At this point, events become a matter of
conjecture. Did the Noble family feel that its production
of cannon for the Confederacy made Rome a prime target
for retaliation, instead of just an ordinary town in
Northwest Georgia? Did the Noble family feel a sense of
obligation after the war, as they saw an impoverished
community begin to rebuild? The fact remains that the
Mayor in 1870 was Henry A. Smith, a son-in-law of James
Noble. The most prominent organization in town was the
Volunteer Fire Department and James Noble, Jr. was
In its attempt to rebuild, Rome found itself
badly in need of a water works and another of the Nobles,
son John, was appointed to a committee to visit Bowling
Green Kentucky, to inspect a waterworks project just
completed there. The committee returned, most
enthusiastic, and the proposal become quite a political
issue, with many arguments on both sides.
The water tower was planned on the hill - one of
Rome's famous seven where the Clock Tower now stands.
However, there were those who insisted such terrific
water pressure from opened faucets, would "knock the
bottom out of a tin cup". Needless to say, the issue
passed, and the water tower was built, with a capacity of
almost a quarter million gallons. The tank itself is of
heavy steel, 26 feet in diameter and 60 feet
As time went on, Rome and its population grew
rapidly and the tower became inadequate. The tower was
succeeded by a reservoir on another Roman landmark,
Jackson Hill, in 1893 and the tower was placed on
Now, to the Town Clock itself. It was installed
in 1872, after the completion of the water system. For
buffs of beauty and architecture, let us say that the
tank itself is surrounded by a brick structure, with a 3
foot space to permit an interior spiral staircase of 107
steps, and tower surmounted by a 41 foot superstructure,
making the entire tower 104 feet high and seen high above
most of our city.
The clock was made in Boston, Massachusetts and
was shipped on order of John W. Noble. Its face is 9 feet
in diameter, the minute hand is 4 feet and 3 inches and
the hour hand, 3 feet 6 inches. It is know in Waltham as
their No. 2, hour striking, eight day clock. The bronze
bell, which tolls the hour, has functioned properly since
its original installation, but the first mechanism, and
old hand windlass, has been replaced by a small electric
Rome will always owe a lasting debt to John W.
Noble, son of James Noble, Sr. for having planned a
structure which, for symmetry of design, for beauty of
outline, for artistry in its adaptation to surroundings,
is not surpassed anywhere in America or the older
countries of Europe.
In May of 1980 Rome honored its beloved clock by
dedication an arboretum of 28 Japanese Cherry Trees on
the hill. The ceremony took place on the occasion of a
visit by Clean World International delegates to the City.
A tree was planted in honor of each visiting nation and
the clock chimed once for each guest.
For literally thousands of Rome's citizens, the
Clock has always been there, and integral part of their
city - as heart warming as the Statue of Liberty in New
York City's harbor - and perhaps the first sight of it
has meant as much to returning voyagers.
Rome's Clock Tower Museum
Clock Towers around the world
Clock Towers built by Edward
* In cooperation with L.T.
For information please
contact The Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O.
Box 5823, Rome, GA 30162, 800 444-1834, 706