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Floral Clock

Between 1934 and 1974, a large Floral Clock (working clock made of flowers) graced the entrance to Greenfield Village . To this day, we still receive questions asking us “what happened to the Floral Clock?” For the answer to this question and more, please see a detailed history of the Floral Clock below.

Where was the clock originally located?
The Floral Clock was originally located at Water Works Park in Detroit, also known as Gladwin Park. The park opened in 1879. Its main purpose was to provide water for Detroit and surrounding areas. However, it soon became a Detroit landmark, and tourist attraction and remained one for decades. One of the attractions in the park was a 185-ft. brick standpipe tower. Visitors could climb stairs to the top of the tower and view the entire 110-acre park, as well as downtown Detroit . The other main attraction was the Floral Clock designed by the superintendent of grounds at the park, Elbridge A. “Scrib” Scribner. He built and erected the clock in 1893. The clock was so popular it soon graced the front of countless postcards.

When did the clock come to Greenfield Village? Why?
In 1934, Henry Ford rescued the clock and brought it to Greenfield Village. The City of Detroit wanted to dispose of the clock for several reasons: its decline as a tourist attraction, its high maintenance costs, and its inability to keep accurate time. However, Henry Ford having a passion for collecting historical relics, as well as having a penchant for fixing clocks decided to restore it and display it in the entrance to Greenfield Village. After a year, and much restoration work the clock was restarted on July 4, 1935.

How was the clock powered?
Originally, Eldridge Scribner designed the clock to be powered by water and installed cup-shaped paddle wheels to run the mechanism. After Henry Ford brought the clock to Greenfield Village, it was fitted with a traditional pendulum and weight mechanism. The 150-lb. brass weight would drop about 1-in. per hour and had to be wound twice a day.

What flowers were used on the clock face?
The clock face consisted of approximately 7,000 plants. Alternatheras were used to make the numerals and design. Sempervivum Tectorum ("Hens and Chickens") were used everywhere else on the clock face. The plants were held in place by chicken wire. The beds in front of the clock contained tulips in the spring and begonias during summer months. In the winter a painted wooden replica of the design replaced the plants on the clock face.

Where was the clock located in Greenfield Village?
The clock was the first thing visitors saw after they passed through the Greenfield Village Gatehouse. This location roughly corresponds to the fountain in the Josephine F. Ford Plaza today.

What were the clock dimensions?
The clock measured 7-1/2 ft. high, 10-ft. wide with a dial 6-ft. in diameter.

Why did the clock leave Greenfield Village and where is it now?
In 1974, the clock was placed in storage because of problems with the clock mechanism and the high cost of maintenance. In 1989, the clock was deaccessioned and returned to the City of Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department, where it is assumed to remain to this day.

(click for larger view)

Click for larger image: Later picture of the Floral Clock in Greenfield Village during the spring.  The beds in front of clock contain tulips.      Click for larger image: Floral Clock in Greenfield Village as it would have looked shortly after it was put in place.     

Click for larger image: Floral Clock in Water Works Park, about 1910.     Click for larger image: Postcard featuring Floral Clock at Water Works (Gladwin) Park.
Images: Details From 1) G 2077; 2) G 1352; 3) K 520; 4) G 2090

Floral Clock Source Notes:
(All sources available in the Benson Ford Research Center Collections)

Barton B. West to Vera W. Pohlman, 1941, Edison Institute Building Text Collection: Acc. E.I. 186, Folder: “ Greenfield Village Gardens – Detroit Floral Clock”.

Bryan, Ford R., Henry’s Attic, (Dearborn, MI: Ford Books, 1995), 310.

Buttiegieg, Julie (Greenfield Village Greenhouse Staff), interview by Jacqueline Funk, 2004.

“Floral Clock All Done”, Nov. 22, 1934 , Edison Institute Building Text Collection: Acc. E.I. 186, Folder: “ Greenfield Village Gardens – Detroit Floral Clock”.

General Postcard Collection, Size J, “Parks—MI”.

Kenneth Metcalf, “The Floral Clock,” n.d., Acc. 34.776.1, Registrar’s Office Files.

Maps, Museum and Village Maps Collection: Acc. E.I. 21, Boxes 1-2.

Marzejka, Laurie J., “ Detroit ’s Water Works Park a Gateway to the Past”, The Detroit News.

Photographs, Edison Institute Building Photograph Collection: Acc. E.I. 1929, Box 38 ,
Folder: “Floral Clock—Exterior”, and Folder: “Floral Clock—Original Site”.

Photographs, Photographic Vertical File Series: Acc. 1660, Box 70 , Folder: “ Detroit —Parks”.

Postcards, General Postcard Collections, Size J, “Parks—MI”.

Postcards, Museum and Village Postcards Collection: Acc. E.I. 236, Box 2 . “Saved by Ford, Floral Clock to Keep Time Now”, Nov. 24, 1934, Edison Institute Building Text Collection: Acc. E.I. 186, Folder: “ Greenfield Village Gardens – Detroit Floral Clock”.

Smith, Sally, “The Floral Clock From Waterworks Park ”, Herald VIII, no. 12 (July 1941): 19.