Time’s ticking for historic clock on Fairfax/Santa Monica

The hands of the antique clock floating above Birdies on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax haven’t moved in years, maybe decades — but WeHo leaders think it might be time to change that.

West Hollywood City Council at their meeting Monday allowed staff members to begin the evaluation of the clock and accompanying building as historic cultural resources.

The clock has been identified by enthusiasts online as an O.B. McClintock clock that features tubular chimes which once played familiar melodies (“peals”) every 15 minutes. The company produced these stately four-dial clocks between 1918 and 1940, and they were particularly successful at marketing them to banks. Similar McClintock clocks have been restored recently in Monroe, Mich.; Park Rapids, Minn.; and Hendersonville, N.C.

The building, too, may have some significance. The staff report reads, “The building located at 7900-06 Santa Monica Boulevard is a two-story commercial building in the 20th Century Commercial style with Classical Revival influences. It was built in 1924. The building is defined by monumental terra cotta piers supporting a continuous cornice and small parapet. The distinguishing feature of this local landmark building is a clock which projects from the corner of the building. The clock has not been functional for many years, despite efforts by City staff and community members to encourage the property owner to make repairs.”

The push for cultural designation began about seven years ago, when WeHo resident Guenter Keunecke started making attempts to get the clock up and running again. Keunecke has said the owners of the building, members of the families of the late Marshall Gumbiner and Charles Gumbiner, didn’t want the historic designation. Such a designation can limit a property owner’s ability to make changes to a building.

“There is nothing historic about the building or its architecture,” Vivian Gumbiner, representing her family, said during public comment. “In fact, it is a run-of-the-mill commercial structure. The fact that the building was constructed decades ago does not justify historical significance.”

Roy Oldenkamp of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance agreed.

“Of all those two-story buildings built in the early 1900s, it’s one of the most impressive. It’s got gorgeous pilasters, Palladian windows; it’s in great shape. I think most historians would agree that it does speak to the development patterns in this area and it is largely intact and it has Neoclassical elements that are still very vibrant and outstanding,” he said.

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath supported the idea of fixing the clock but was hesitant about initiating the cultural designation review process against the wishes of one of the owners.

“I’m just questioning whether the city should be initiating that process as opposed to what typically happens where it comes from an organization like yours,” she told Oldenkamp, who thought otherwise.

“We would hope that the city — being an enlightened element that does have a really a robust program for cultural designation — would take the lead on more and more of these going forward, as personally, I feel like it should have in the past,” he said. “It ain’t easy and we need help a lot.”

While Horvath sought a way to address the clock alone, Councilmember John Erickson motioned to proceed with the review process for the building as well.

“I just don’t know if I have good faith that the owners of the building would even work with the city to find a way to fix the clock. They asked me this question when I met with them, ‘Is this only about the clock?’ and I said, ‘No.’ If you read the staff report there’s much more in there about this building that is worthy of consideration.”

Th motion passed 4-1, with Horvath voting no.

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About Brandon Garcia
Brandon Garcia is editor of WEHOville. He oversees the website's editorial direction and creates original content such as news reports, photo and video features, digital art work and advertisements. A native of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, he now lives in WeHo and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community. @brandoninthebubble on Instagram

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Let's champion the clock
Let's champion the clock
2 months ago

A friendly history of the McClintock Clocks. Another reason for why this neglected clock should be restored in situ to living breathing clockdom as it is well thought to be a community landmark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wF-r4nBZLU

TomSmart
TomSmart
2 months ago

The family member states the building is nothing special then the next sentence states “ Roy Oldenkamp of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance agreed.” which he clearly does not agree with her.

Insight Needed
Insight Needed
2 months ago

Questions & Observations: Was this stretch of property at 7900 to 7906 SMB recommended in the recent Commercial Survey? How did it occur to CM Erickson to recommend this? How was and through whom was this listed as the State Cultural Resource given the varied arguments as far back as Anna Strassburg? The only one who seems to have done his homework and presented a practical approach is Mr. Keuneke as this little masterpiece could start ticking again regardless of what happens to the buildings. It would be lovely to hear the chimes. The bells at St. Ambrose were recently… Read more »

Mike
Mike
2 months ago

West Hollywood wasn’t even a city until 1984. So, why bother with this?

Joshua88
Joshua88
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

That fact is meaningless in this context.

Private vs Public property
Private vs Public property
2 months ago

How does the city compensate the building owners for the loss in the value of their asset once it’s designated a cultural resource? It has to be a win win situation otherwise it’s theft.

David Abrams
David Abrams
2 months ago

The building owner would get measly property tax reductions. It’s a gross taking from the owner’s property rights.

The clock should be designated as historical, restored with public funds, and removed to be installed elsewhere in the city. I’m sure the property owners would happily donate it to the City.

Would make a great addition to the art installations in the Santa Monica Blvd medians.

Insight Needed
Insight Needed
2 months ago
Reply to  David Abrams

This is true. Anything presumed by way of a Mills Act condition is not especially helpful here although rehabilitation of the building might be possible IF considered a Cultural Resource.

Any not make the clock itself a landmark in situ regardless of the the future of the building whose disposition could go on forever. The owner could be requested to donate the clock so its rebirth could begin now for the enjoyment of many. An unselfish act.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
2 months ago

Love that building and the clock! Roy is right to push for cultural designation.

Horvath is wrong about this one.

And the last thing we need is some 7 story stucco sh*tbox on that corner.

I miss the old cafe that was on the corner 🙁 Haven’t tried the new donut place yet.

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