© 2024 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Clock Tower Clock

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Remember that grandfather clock too large for the shelf, so it stood ninety years on the floor? General Thomas J. Rodman must have heard that song and decided to go it one better. He ordered a clock that was too large for the floor.

General Rodman arrived in Rock Island in 1867 to take over command of the brand-new Rock Island Arsenal and supervise construction of Storehouse A, as the arsenal building was called. The storehouse was a three-story plain stone structure with a tower for hoisting supplies to the upper storage floors—identical to arsenals being constructed in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Government plans called for a six-foot clock in the tower.

General Rodman, however, had larger dreams. He received permission to make his arsenal building bigger and better, and that included adding a full story to the tower and installing a much larger clock with twelve-foot faces on each side.

By December of 1867, the tower was ready for the new clock. Rodman had ordered the clock from A. S. Hotchkiss of New York, a nationally known clock maker. On December 30th, Hotchkiss arrived to install his masterpiece.

The clock in the clock tower was an impressive affair. The clock sat in a solid frame of cast iron seven feet nine inches long supported by four iron columns. The clock's pendulum hung down 32 feet through two tower floors. Its wood shaft and 350-pound ball swing back and forth every three seconds. The weights which run the clock works hang down through three floors, a thousand pound one on one side and a 1,200 pound one on the other.

So impressive is this clock—still gaining or losing less than fifteen seconds a week—that the building came to be called the Clock Tower Building. It has already outlasted the clock in the song by forty years.

Even as General Rodman was installing this amazing clock, he was planning to abandon the building in favor of a much grander arsenal—the one you see today—in the middle of the island. He was not a man to leave things undone.

Makes me wonder of other grand schemers like Noah finished his barn and put the hay up before getting into the ark.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.