March 1, 2012

Making a Difference: David Seay

Restoring historic tower clocks

  • By: Gwendolyn Purdom

When David Seay was 22, a neighbor in Manhattan, Kan., showed him a collection of clocks—and Seay still remembers the sound: "It was like rain, all this ticking … I knew at that very moment that I wanted to pursue a clock business." He founded the Regulator Time Company in 1976 and was soon hired to repair an E. Howard clock above the 1906 courthouse in Riley Co., Kan. Almost immediately, other communities began chiming in for help. In the ensuing years, Seay has restored thousands of clocks nationwide, many of them large-scale tower clocks and street clocks dating to the turn of the last century.

From the 1905 steeple clocks in Topeka, Kan., to the tower clock at the 1920s mill in West Warwick, R.I., Seay’s commissions involve everything from sandblasting and welding faces and hands to matching original paint colors on clock frames. The work is so intricate that he often encourages clients to set up webcams to get a closer look at the clocks’ workings once restoration has been completed. And when he restores a clock that has been central to the life of a community for decades, Seay knows his work is appreciated: “People hear this clock striking for years and years and years," he says. "It's very close to their hearts."

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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