LAWRENCE — The recent heat wave was enough to halt time.
At least that’s what happened when the torrid temperatures stopped the hands on the face of the city’s iconic Ayer Mill clock.
“The heat causes the pendulum to expand by 16th of an inch and changes the speed of the clock,” Charles E. Waites, keeper of the Ayer Mill clock, said yesterday. “The high heat over a couple of weeks, it did have an effect on the clock.”
Some area residents had noticed that hands had been stuck at 8:56.
Once he climbed 220-feet above the city, Waites, 61, also discovered that the pulley which holds the main cables that drives the clock were dried. He oiled the pulley with the help of his son, Chris, something they do twice a year.
“If it runs dry, it doesn’t pull much weight and it affects the power on the clock,” said Waites who has been maintaining the clock for 22 years.
The four-faced clock has been a beacon for thousands of workers and residents in Lawrence who rely on it to get the time.
“No one likes a dead clock,” Waites said. “People want to know what time it is.”
The Ayer Mill clock is only 6 inches shorter than Big Ben in London. It was installed in 1910 by the E. Howard Company in Boston and features 15-foot pendulum powered by springs and gears, clockwork made out of brass and cast iron and 1,600 pounds of glass that holds the 12 -foot-long hands.
It stopped working in the mid 1950s. A community-wide campaign raised nearly $1 million to restore it in 1991 including a new bell cast in the Netherlands.
There’s a nearly $500,000 endowment for the tower’s maintenance and care under the jurisdiction of the Essex Community Foundation.
The Ayer Mill houses the New Balance footwear company, however, the Essex County Community Foundation of Danvers is in charge of the clock’s maintenance. New Balance handles the upkeep of the tower.