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 Monday meeting 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 OB 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, NC

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 Historic Preservation Commission disagreed.

“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.

Council member 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 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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