State clock runs out of time early Millennium timepiece at State House is gone after wave of criticism

'I don't think it belongs'

New location sought, possibly at BWI or in Baltimore

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 commission 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 for the clock.

"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 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 almost immediately criticized.

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

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 rejected

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 secure area and highly visible, she said.

Some Annapolis residents said yesterday that the controversy highlights the need for citizen input into projects on state property.

No oversight

The clock's original location, on state property, needed no approval from local historical groups, and it also was beyond the purview of the State House Trust, which oversees most of Lawyers Mall.

"I'm glad they had the foresight to see it was misplaced," Busch said. "Sometimes people get their heels dug in and don't want to change. They readily addressed it, though. I'm happy. It was just an inappropriate place."

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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