Millennium clock runs out of time before 2000 $16,000 digital timepiece comes down in Annapolis

September 22, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The state's clock counting down to the millennium, a 9-foot tall digital timepiece that has stirred criticism and controversy since it was unveiled Sept. 2, came down yesterday, a victim of preservationist sensibilities.

State and Annapolis officials said the contemporary-style clock, which resembles a scoreboard, had no place in the city's Historic District, where preservationists have gone to great lengths to restore the appearance of a Colonial seaport.

"Rowe Boulevard just underwent a $2 million beautification as the historic gateway into the capital," said Alderman Sheila Tolliver, who represents the area.

"It's pretty contemporary for a historic city," she said of the clock. I don't think it belongs."

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, said the clock ruined the historical aesthetics of the State House, where the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the Revolutionary War.

Del. Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, wrote to Gov. Parris N. Glendening requesting its immediate relocation.

Glendening, who appointed the panel that created the clock, said, "We must always remember that we are fortunate to have the oldest working State House in the nation right here in Maryland, and we should not do anything that would detract from its historic integrity and beauty. It would be preferable to move the clock to a more appropriate location."

State officials said they are searching for a new location.

"It's quite possible the clock would be moved out of the city entirely," said Louise Hayman, executive director of the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000, the group responsible for LTC planning statewide millennium events. "I think there is good justification for keeping it in the state capital, but we might not be able to find the perfect spot. We might have to widen our berth. You can't please everybody. I'm sorry for all the focus on the clock itself; I'd much rather the focus was on the programs we are putting together for the celebration. But we will assuredly find a place somewhere in the state for it."

When the $16,000 clock was unveiled by the commission led by chairman William Donald Schaefer, the former governor, was quickly criticized.

Besides the legislators, tourists complained that it blocked their photographs of the State House.

So the power saws roared yesterday morning and sliced the clock's legs off so that it could be removed from the site.

Two suggestions for possible new sites -- in front of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building and on Rowe Boulevard in front of the Department of Natural Resources building -- were ruled out.

The commission is considering placing the clock at Baltimore-Washington International Airport or in Baltimore.

Wherever the clock ends up, Hayman said, it will need a fiber-optics connection and an electrical power source. The location must also be a secure area and highly visible, she said.

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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