Restored Skuller's clock returned to place of prominence in Lexington

kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 17, 2013 

  • If you go

    Reset the Clock

    When: 7:15 p.m. Friday

    Where: 100 block of Main Street

After three years of absence, the old Skuller's Jewelry post clock is making a grand reappearance on Main Street.

For decades, the tall timepiece sat outside the spot now occupied by Bellini's.

It became a city landmark and an advertisement for a longtime Lexington business, but it also was a bus stop and a spot where many a young couple became engaged.

"It is a significant part of the character of our historic core," said Bettie Kerr, the city's historic preservation officer.

But time did not leave the clock untouched, and eventually it stopped working.

It was taken down three years ago in poor condition as the city was making infrastructure improvements along Main Street in anticipation of the World Equestrian Games.

At 7:15 p.m. Friday, just as dusk is falling during Gallery Hop, the city will hold a short "reset the clock" event to celebrate the clock's restoration — and its return to its longtime home on the sidewalk near the northwest corner of Main Street and Limestone.

The clock, reinstalled Tuesday, made its debut about 100 years ago, when Harry Skuller opened a jewelry store downtown and installed a dual-faced clock made by the Brown Street Clock Co. of Monessen, Pa., to advertise his business.

The store had an optometrist's office associated with it, so the clock originally featured a large pair of eyeglasses and painted eyes.

Through the years, Skuller's Jewelry made a few moves, and each time the clock, which sits on an iron pedestal, moved with it. The last move, to 115-119 West Main Street, was in 1931, Kerr said.

Harry Skuller died in the late 1930s, but his wife, Lena Skuller, continued to run the business until about a week before her death in 1984. When the store closed several months later, the clock was "just quietly left to itself," Kerr said.

There were some efforts to revitalize the clock.

In 1990, the owners of Ruggles Sign Co. made several improvements, including new neon lights and fresh paint for the lettering.

But by the time the clock was taken down in 2010, it wasn't even running, Kerr said.

"The metal was wearing," she said.

Kerr said it was apparent that if the clock were simply put back on the sidewalk in that condition, "it might not have a very long future."

And so began a push by the city's Historic Preservation Commission to raise about $30,000 to restore the timepiece.

Kiosks were put out at the farmers market, and residents were asked to mail in donations.

The descendants of the Skuller family also donated to the cause.

Kerr said the preservation commission went "to considerable lengths ... to make it what it was meant to be."

A local artist painted new eyes similar to the ones that used to be inside the eyeglass frames under the clock face.

The neon "Skuller's" sign atop the clock has been relit, as have those eyes and the clock face.

The clock has been wired into the street's electrical line rather than that of a nearby building. Kerr said that will make it less susceptible to having to be reset because of power outages.

The restoration was by The Verdin Co. in Cincinnati, a family business that has made and restored street clocks and cast-bronze bells for more than 170 years.

Dr. Sylvia Cerel-Suhl, a great-granddaughter of the Skullers, plans to speak at Friday's celebration.

She said that for her and the couple's three other great-granddaughters, the clock is a tangible symbol of the tenacious woman that their great-grandmother was.

"She was widowed and ran that store for 50 years," Cerel-Suhl said.

Lena Skuller had a great love of downtown and lived in the Phoenix Hotel. She also was a charter member of Temple Adath Israel and helped secure funding to buy land for Ohavay Zion Synagogue.

When she died at age 95, a headline on the Herald-Leader's editorial page mourned the loss of "a Lexington jewel."

"There were literally generations and generations of people whose lives she was a part of," Cerel-Suhl said.

And the clock kept watch over it all.

If you go

Reset the Clock

When: 7:15 p.m. Friday

Where: 100 block of Main Street

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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