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It's about time

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A closeup of a historic tall case clock is shown, signed by Jacob Fry, of Woodstock. Burt Long, guest curator for the upcoming Belle Grove clock exhibit, purchased the clock in Connecticut. Courtesy photo

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A tall case clock built in Woodstock is shown. Courtesy photo

'Groundbreaking' clock exhibit to honor valley history

By Josette Keelor - jkeelor@nvdaily.com

MIDDLETOWN - Curator Burt Long is anticipating the moment when Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown will open what he calls a groundbreaking exhibit of antique clocks. It's still several months away, but with the minutes quickly ticking away, he said the time to get the word out is now

Clocks built in the Shenandoah Valley between 1790 and 1810 have made their way into the greater United States over the centuries, but it's Long's hope that enough residents from the valley will know how to get their hands on such clocks in time for the October exhibit.

The "It's About Time: Tall Case Clocks of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia" exhibit will open Oct. 27, but Long, guest curator for the exhibit, said the museum needs more clocks from area collectors.

"I've found other valley clocks, you know, ones made in Woodstock ... mailed to Pennsylvania or elsewhere," Long said. "And sometimes it was a generation ago," he said. "I'd still like to research and document those clocks."

All types of Shenandoah Valley tall case clocks, often known as grandfather clocks, are welcome for the exhibit. Since so many valley residents at the turn of the 18th century would have owned tall case clocks, Long hopes many of the timepieces are still in the area.

Long has been collecting clocks for as long as he can remember, and he and his father once had an extensive collection between the two of them, but he said he believes there are plenty more where those clocks came from.

Three years ago he purchased a valley clock built in Harrisonburg that had made its way to Cincinnati, Ohio -- a tall case clock with a cherry wood case and elaborate inlay, built by Peter Henneberger in 1815.

Henneberger was "a silversmith and a clock maker, and that was pretty neat, that was three years ago," Long said.

Henneberger family moved from Harrisonburg to Cincinnati in 1920, Long said, and the clock remained in the family for three more generations until an estate auction three years ago, where Long purchased the clock.

Another clock, which he purchased in Connecticut, was signed by the builder, Jacob Fry, made between 1795 and 1800. Other clocks he said he hopes to secure for the exhibit might have signatures from Caleb Davis, E. Williams, Joshua Humphrey, G. (Goldsmith) Chandlee, Ja (James) Huston, Jacob Bear, George Kring or J. (Jacob) Danner.

Long still owns a few clocks -- "Between myself and my family, eight," he said. "It's mainly myself."

He used to have 35, he said, and his father owned well over 100.

"My dad, he passed away six years ago, he was a scholar of tall case clocks," Long said.
"When I was very young, there would be between eight and 15 valley clocks sold each year at estate auctions," he said. This was in the late '60s, early '70s, he said.

His father, Benny, purchased quite a few at that time, Long said, but as time passed he sold most of them.

With over 100 clocks, Long said, "Kind of have to."

Belle Grove is located on U.S. 11 south of Middletown. For information on the tall case clock exhibit, contact Belle Grove at 869-2028 or Burt Long at 325-6490, or visit www.bellegrove.org.

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