Monday, May 20, 2019

Andrew Dreger's Clock

Andrew Dreger’s family were some of the earliest pioneers in Southern California, coming from Germany and settling in a general area especially known for German immigrants.  The German community stretched from Anaheim all the way to the coastline just about where the Orange County, Los Angeles county lines meet.  Anaheim Landing was built, and the German-now-American farmers were able to ship their produce all along the California Coast.

Dreger had an amazing mind for mechanics, and honed skills as a blacksmith, bicycle repairman, and watchmaker.  He was highly skilled at repairing and making timepieces, and had a workshop at his home in Long Beach. It was there that he  got the idea to build a large mechanical clock utilizing a motor as a driver.  He completed one, but thought he could do better.

The second iteration is a work of art.  It took nearly five years for him to complete it, and when it was finished, he installed it outside his Long Beach home in 1933.  There it stood for twenty years. Upon his death, his family sought a place for the clock to reside so it wouldn’t suffer the whims of whoever any future tenants of the home might be. They were disappointed to learn the city of Long Beach was not interested.

Along came Walter Knott, who had this splendid little Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA.  The Dreger clock was moved out by the ticket booths and was crowned with plaques that said Knott’s.  There it resided for over 50 years. But in 2006, it was clear the Dreger Clock was in certain need of repair… and adjustment in time standards!

But first, a little description of the clock.  The four-sided clock originally stood fifteen feet tall, and features not only local time, along with eleven more time zones.  It also shows the phases of the moon and the day and date as well.  It is run by a single 110 volt motor, and all the movements are geared or mechanically manipulated (including a bicycle chain).

Especially unusual though is that Drager’s clock was originally built according to the solar time standard, instead of traditional time zone designations. The end result is that cities like London or Moscow showed different… but accurate second hand settings. 

In 2008 the Buena Park Historical District purchased the clock… or more accurately rescued it from being sold on Ebay. They began a long restoration process, this time aligning the second hands according to the more accepted time zone configuration.  The date and phase of the moon dials were completely restored, and a new base was built.

The Drager clock now stands at the "Plaza Buena" park near the Whitaker/Jaynes House on Beach Blvd (at 10th street across from the City Hall) running perfectly. The fourth face features a plate that tells about Andrew Drager.   

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