Rome's Tower Clock:

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Marking Minutes Since 1872  


 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 its minutes.

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 Confederacy.

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 Chief.

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 deep.

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 standby.

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 motor.

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 Howard

* In cooperation with L.T. Shoemaker*

For information please contact The Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 5823, Rome, GA 30162, 800 444-1834, 706 295-5576