- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

There is a new face on one of the District of Columbia's oldest shopping areas a 15-foot-tall Howard Post street clock in front of Bensons Jewelers at 1319 F St. NW.

The hunter-green-and-gold clock, erected Dec. 30, straddles two eras: Its elevated visage aids in the modern world's reliance on time, while its Old World design recalls a simpler age.

"You can see it from a block and a half away and literally tell what time it is," said Ken Stein, president of Bensons Jewelers.

Mr. Stein proposed the idea of the clock patterned after a similar clock that stood on the 1400 block of F street for more than 100 years to the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District (BID).

Without forfeiting the charm of its predecessor, the new clock incorporates modern methods of timekeeping. It is controlled automatically by a Global Positioning System satellite, which, Mr. Stein said, will cut down on maintenance.

Electricians are applying finishing touches to a neon light within the clock's face. In a nod to its heritage, the clock reads "Historic F Street" between the 4 and 8. The clock displays the Bensons name underscored with "Est 1939" on the post.

Mr. Stein, who worked alongside his father, Paul, for 21 years, has headed the family business for the past two, after taking over from his father. He considers the clock the centerpiece of the F Street shopping row, which includes the Shops at National Place, Olsson's Records and the Catalon West Restaurant located directly beneath Bensons.

The clock is less important as an advertising tool to Mr. Stein, who emphasizes the mark it will make on the community.

"If I don't get any business from it, so be it," he said. "It's for beautification and it's functional."

Bensons Jewelers provided one-third of the funding for the $15,000 clock, while the BID and landowner Ethan Grossman evenly split the remainder.

The street clock is one of many improvements the BID has been making since its inception in January 1996.

Among the organization's other contributions are increased signage to more fluidly direct pedestrian traffic, numerous benches, trees and tree boxes.

Joe Sternlieb, deputy director of the Downtown D.C. BID, said these improvements are aimed at implementing a new set of streetscape guidelines.

It has been the BID's goal to install more "user-friendly items," said Mr. Sternlieb, and ultimately to make downtown "safer, friendlier and cleaner."

Based on a "spirit of cooperation among property owners," Mr. Sternlieb said, BID's initiatives have met with no significant opposition.

True to form, the artful clock has been universally welcomed.

As the BID continues its work "to create one of the greatest downtowns in the world," Washingtonians can look forward to more improvements. Mr. Sternlieb has outlined plans for a six-piece sculpture installation later this year, along with a historic walking tour titled "Civil War to Civil Rights."

The tour, consisting of 21 landmark signs and an 80-page self-guided tour book, is slated to begin in March.


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