Sidewalk Clocks of Los Angeles

Sidewalk Clocks of Los Angeles — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Sidewalk Clocks of Los Angeles

Once upon a time, in the days of a more walkable Los Angeles, jewelry stores would install free-standing clocks on the sidewalks outside their storefronts. These towering time-keeping devices served as both a public service and a means of advertising the adjoining store. Today, only three of these historic sidewalk clocks remain in Los Angeles. But there are a few newcomers.

William Stromberg Clock

Probably the best-known of all the Los Angeles Sidewalk Clocks, the William Stromberg Clock stands in the middle of Hollywood, right on Hollywood Boulevard, in front of one of the first movie big-ticket houses in Los Angeles.

The William Stromberg Sidewalk Clock on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo from the author’s collection.

Originally dating back to the early 1930s, the William Stromberg Clock still stands in front of the shuttered Hollywood Pacific Theatre (which closed its doors in 1994) near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue.

The Hollywood Pacific originally opened as the Warner Theater in 1928. In addition to a 2700-seat theater, the complex housed Warner Brothers Radio Station KFWB and included ground-floor retail space along Hollywood Boulevard.

An enterprising jeweler by the name of William Stromberg, who ran a jewelry shop on Western Avenue, opened a second branch of his well-regarded store in one of these ground floor spaces. He hoped to capitalize on his reputation — and cater to the numerous movie stars of the day. To promote the shop and attract new clients, Stromberg erected an elaborate clock outside his shop.

Hollywood Boulevard and the Warner Theater circa 1930. Note the William Stromberg Clock in the lower left corner.
Photo via Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection, Security National Bank Photo Collection.

Because the clock is located along such a highly trafficked street, you may recognize its distinctive profile from its many appearances in car chase scenes (especially in early silent movies) filmed along Hollywood Boulevard.

The clock has been replaced a number of times throughout the years, and the current design, which features “Stromberg Jewelers” done up in neon along the top, is thought to date back to the 1980s. Today, some of the neon letters have broken off and the clock no longer keeps time — the west-facing side is stopped at 4:20 while the east-facing face perpetually reads 3:17 (making this broken clock is right four times a day).

The William Stromberg Clock’s faces: east (left) and west (right). Photo from the author’s collection.

The Stromberg Clock has been listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 316 since January 1987.

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Broadway Street Clock

Although the Stromberg Clock is the most famous of the Los Angeles sidewalk clocks, it’s not the oldest. That distinction falls to the Broadway Street Clock in Lincoln Heights, which was erected in 1910. Like the Stromberg Clock, it originally served as street-side advertising for a jewelry store.

The Broadway Street Clock has seen better days. Photo from the author’s collection.

In 2006, the Broadway Street Clock was damaged by a film crew. Then it suffered the indignity of having its parts harvested by scavengers. So the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce cashed in a $41,000 insurance payout and contracted the Verdin Company, historic clock-makers from Ohio, to build a new 14-foot clock in the style of the original.

Today, the Broadway Street Clock, emblazoned with “Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce” across its face, stands just down the street the unassuming entrance to the Los Angeles headquarters of the Adventurers Club. But the clock has again fallen into a state of disrepair. The glass covering the face is broken in a few places and stickered over in others, it’s got a deep dent on the street-facing side, and its hands no longer seem to move.

Alhambra Main Street Clock

The Main Street Sidewalk Clock in Alhambra has been around since 1913. It was first installed by Henry Wellman, a (you guessed it) jeweler to promote his store, H.E. Wellman Jewelers.

The Alhambra Main Street Clock. Photo from the author’s collection.

Wellman bought his clock from the now-defunct Brown Street Clock Company in Monessen, Pennsylvania for around $300. It is one of only 60 known Brown Street Clocks remaining in the United States today.

Wellman moved his store at least four times over the years, and he always brought the clock with him. H.E. Wellman Jewelers went out of business in 1966, and in the wake of that closure, the clock was largely ignored. But in 1982, the city of Alhambra, working with a group of watch and clock enthusiasts, restored the clock and moved it back to its original location on Main Street.

After its relocation in 1982, the 12-foot tall clock was once again ignored by the community at large and fell into a state of neglect. After an appeal to the community in 2013 resulted in significant donations for its restoration, the clock was repaired to working order in 2014.

The face of the clock under Wellman’s stewardship used to read “Wellman Jewelers,” but today it just displays standard Roman numerals. A metal plaque reading “Alhambra” decorates the top edge of the clock.

Of the three historic clocks, the Alhambra Main Street Clock is the most resplendent featuring acanthus leaves painted gold. It’s also the only historic sidewalk clock that still keeps time.

Rotary Club Sidewalk Clocks

San Marino Centennial Clock

Although it’s not as historic as the other clocks here, the San Marino Centennial Clock is stands as a representative honoring the fine tradition of historic sidewalk clocks.

The newest kid on the block: The San Marino Centennial Clock. Photo from the author’s collection.

Unlike its older cousins, this 15-foot tall clock doesn’t advertise a jeweler. Rather, it was a gift to San Marino from the Rotary Club of San Marino in 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of parent organization Rotary International.

The clock was dedicated on July 2, 2005, and, in addition to it being a sidewalk clock, serves as a fancy marker for the San Marino Time Capsule. This capsule is scheduled to be opened at 10:00 am on July 4, 2039, the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club of San Marino. See you there!

Don’t open until July 4, 2039. Photo from the author’s collection.

The San Marino Centennial Clock, manufactured by the Electric Time Company of Massachusetts (for around $70,000) is the largest sidewalk clock in the area.

Sister Cities Clock Tower

Seiko Clocktower from Nagoya, Japan — Los Angeles Explorers Guild
The Seiko Clocktower, a gift from Nagoya, Japan at the Sister Cities Monument. Photo from the author’s collection.

A gift from the city of Nagoya, Japan — the first Los Angeles Sister City — in 1984 celebrating 25 years of metropolitan kinship. It sits at the corner of Main and 1st Streets in Downtown as part of the Sister Cities of Los Angeles Monument.

(At Least) Two More Sidewalk Clocks (That Aren’t on Sidewalks)

If, after reading this, you’ve developed a fondness (or at least a fascination) for sidewalk clocks, there are at least two other sidewalk-style clocks in the greater Los Angeles area. One is at The Grove (this one is a bit lame) and one is at The Americana (this one looks a lot like the San Marino Centennial Clock), both of which are ostentatious outdoor shopping complexes developed by Rick Caruso (who I’m guessing is a big fan of sidewalk clocks).

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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