From a modern wristwatch to an antique timepiece, the sound of a clock ticking is one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable in the world. Inside the Willard House and Clock Museum, the sound of time passing is continuous and comprised of a chorus of historical clocks some of which have been functioning almost non-stop for over 200 years.
Located within a rural and picturesque area of Grafton, Massachusetts, the museum is housed within an old red farm homestead originally built in 1718. It was here that the Willard brothers Benjamin, Simon, Ephraim, and Aaron dedicated their lives to both farming and clockmaking. Out of all the brothers, Simon became the most famous being the inventor of the eight-day patent timepiece which later came to be known as the banjo clock, and for also inventing the lighthouse clock in 1818.
Many of Simon’s clocks would be installed in prestigious locations across the country such as the US Capitol Building for both the Senate and House of Representatives, the Old South Meeting House in Boston, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia.
Although not as renowned as Simon, the other brothers were equally successful horologists and clockmakers setting up a shop in Roxbury, Massachusetts, with Aaron Willard improving many of Simon’s designs and helping make clocks more affordable for the average American.
The original Willard farm fell into disrepair and neglect until a local doctor named Roger W. Robinson and his wife both of whom were collectors of Willard clocks purchased it and restored the area into a museum. Today the museum contains the largest collection of Willard clocks made by many different members of the family along with several very rare and one-of-a-kind items such as a Willard musical clock and a walking stick presented to Simon Willard by former President James Madison in 1827.
The Willard House and Clock Museum is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in clocks or horology whether an expert or novice. Willard clocks are one of the most sought-after antique clocks in the world and seeing so many of them together and hearing the chimes go off every hour like a symphony is an experience one is surely going to remember.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open Thursday-Saturday with guided tours at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Appointments are required which can be made on their website. General admission fee for adults is $10.