History of The Clock Tower

Built in 1890 and funded by leading Southborough resident the Hon. Charles F. Choate, the stone tower has been a defining aspect of Southborough for 130 years.

“The tower is to be forty five feet high, and fifteen feet square, and will have place for a clock. We are the only town in this part of country without a public time-piece. Let not this be true of us any longer!” ~ The Church Chronicle, Southborough, Mass. July,1890

A Tribute to a Daughter

Charles F. and Elisabeth W. Choate funded the building of the Clock and Bell Tower at St. Mark’s Church in honor of their daughter, Helen, who died at the age of 19. A large stone carved by a Mr. Griffin of England placed on the inside of the tower includes the inscription, “In Memory of Helen Thompson Choate. Died January 18,1884. This Tower is built by her Father, 1890, A.D.” Learn more about Charles F. Choate.

St. Mark's Before the Tower

Founded by Joseph Burnett in 1860, St. Mark’s Church first met on the Burnett Estate on Deerfoot Rd., in a chapel on the property (which has received CPA preservation funding). St. Mark’s stone church next to Town Hall was completed in 1862 by the well-known architect Alexander Rice Esty. Esty built many Gothic revival churches across the northeast, as well as many university buildings, personal residences, and office structures, with a number of these listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The free-standing stone clock and bell tower was designed by Esty’s associate, Walter Frank Hurd in 1890, and dedicated early in 1891. It provided the town with a public time-piece, and the bells housed in the tower marked not only the hour, but also ring for important civic remembrances including 9-11, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day. 

 

Southborough Historical Commission

The SHC approved the restoration of St. Mark’s Clock and Bell Tower on March 19, 2018 and reaffirmed that on March 11, 2021.

“St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is a significant part of the institutional focus at the heart of the town center, both as a religious structure and as a significant part of the legacy of prominent benefactor, Joseph Burnett.”

“The SHC considers the bell and clock tower to be a highly significant cultural resource, and its restoration is a high priority.” — Letter of Recommendation from Michael Weishan, Chair

The Legacy of Joseph Burnett

“Sudbury has the Wayside Inn, Hopkinton has the start of the Boston Marathon and we have Joseph Burnett. He is our greatest native son and self-made man, and I believe we need to preserve his legacy forever.” Hewitt Heiserman of Central Street 

(Image: Joseph Burnett circa 1891 — photo from the Southborough Historical Society)

Original architectural drawing of the free-standing clock tower by W. Frank Hurd circa 1890.