Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. Mayor Greg Fischer formally rededicated the spectacular Louisville Clock—formerly known as the Derby Clock—at it’s new resting place on Fourth Street, near Broadway, at Theatre Square. After rusting away for almost 20 years, the refurbished mechanical wonder is once again on display for citizens and visitors alike.
Officially dedicated in 1976 on the River City Mall in downtown Louisville the clock was designed by Louisville sculptor Barney Bright, who designed it to emphasize Kentucky cultural figures and be a larger than life toy. Whimsical, beautiful, and a wonderful piece of art, this folk art style clock is truly a sight to behold.
In 1970, the City of Louisville looked for a way to bring people back to the downtown shopping area. The idea was to build a clock to bring people to the River City Mall as Fourth Street was called then. Barney Bright was commissioned to create the new clock, but the project drew out longer than anticipated and funds ran tight, so the space on the River City Mall that was intended for the clock sat vacant for several years.
Finally, on December 3, 1976, before a crowd of approximately 3,000 people, the clock came to life; resulting in generally rave reviews. Despite this initial success, the clock was plagued with mechanical failures and sat many a day in silence. Louisville city government ended up paying over $100,000 in maintenance, with no success. Soon thereafter the River City Mall failed and this a new phase began with the Louisville Galleria in 1981 to make way the clock was moved to Guthrie Street. Five years later, the malfunctioning clock was moved to the Kentucky Kingdom entrance, at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Funds ran out, people gave up, and in 1993 the clock was dismantled and moved to four locations where it sat in ruins.
Several of the figures were kept on a static display at the Kentucky Derby Museum until March of 2004, when the Adam Matthews Foundation, headed up by Adam Burckle, took possession of the clock and started work on restoring this great and historic Louisville landmark. The clock was moved to Bowman Field airport, in a secure, yet open area.
With the help of many generous donors, volunteers and supporters, the clock was refurbished and restored to working order. In April of this year, the newly-named Louisville Clock was moved to a permanent site at Theater Squre on 4th Street near Broadway.
Read more: Louisville’s White Elephants
Photo credits: Office of Louisville Metro Mayor