Monday, March 25, 2002

Ceiling clock looms large

Prize was born in Cincinnati

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

Penny Reeves, executive director of the Lexington Public Library Foundation, stands under the library's ceiling clock.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        LEXINGTON — The world's largest ceiling clock is a Cincinnatian by birth, but lives in Kentucky. Cast and produced by the Verdin Co. in the East End, the 40-foot-wide steel and Plexiglas clock is installed five open stories up in the rotunda of Lexington's Central Library.

        “We do a lot of different things,” said Jim Verdin, president of Verdin Co. “This ranks right on top. It's enormous.”

        The $167,000 clock was the request of a benefactor who donated nearly half a million dollars to the library in downtown Lexington for the overall project. It has a 74-foot-long Foucault's pendulum.

        Mr. Verdin's company has more than 30,000 bell or clock installations around the world, including the Newport Peace Bell and the Ohio Bicentennial Bell.

  • Where: Lexington Central Library, 140 E. Main St., main floor.
  • Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Thurs, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun.
  • Charge: Free.
  • Information: (859) 231-5500.
        He said the Lexington ceiling clock is the largest in the world.

        Electronically controlled, the nearly 2,000-pound Verdin does not tell time with hands but with lights that circulate through the clock's numerals and minute marks.

        The color of the lights can be changed with a flip of a switch for holiday celebrations.

        Horses modeled after 19th century photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, the “father of the motion picture,” gallop around the outer ring of the clock through the illusion of panels and lights.

        Upon the hour, speakers on both the inside and outside of the library ring out the Westminster chime melody.

        About 17 people worked on the Verdin project for three months. Verdin's largest ceiling clock before that was a 16-foot-clock for a Hilton hotel in Manhattan,

        Mr. Verdin does not anticipate trying to surpass the Lexington clock's size.

        The Foucault's pendulum — supplied by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco -- has a brass bob weighing several hundred pounds. Electronic sensors connected to a 360-degree light pattern illuminate as the pendulum passes over them in rhythm with the earth's rotation.

        It takes 38 hours and six minutes for the pendulum to move through a complete rotation of the earth at Lexington's latitude. Once a rotation is complete, the lights go out and the process starts again.

        “It's really a hypnotic thing to watch it,” said Lexington-based artist Adalin Wichman, an illustrator, painter and sculptor who did much of the design of the project.

        She decided to install the Foucault's pendulum as part of it.

        The clock, pendulum and horses frieze are the dream-inspired gift of Lucille Caudill Little, 92.

        She dedicated the monument to her late husband, W. Paul Little, and to Lexington banker and family friend Charles H. Jett. Mrs. Little, a well-known Lexington philanthropist, had a dream of the project and called the library to initiate it.

        Mrs. Little has donated millions to the University of Kentucky, and supports museums and theater groups in Lexington.

        The clock has already helped to increase traffic to the library, which had more than 600,000 visitors last year, according to Ms. Reeves.

        “The rotunda is full of people all of the time,” Ms. Reeves said. “We know that this is exciting enough to be a destination for people. It's really a remarkable combination of art and science.”


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