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Cuckoo Clock Museum Slated To Open This Summer

Newcomers to the North Loop have probably passed by the old brick building on First Street many times without any idea of the vast collections inside. The drawing of a clock over the door–and gear symbols in the windows–would’ve been clues.

This summer, the building will reopen as a free museum to showcase the hundreds of hand-crafted clocks, rocks and old-time music players that Jim Fiorentino collected before his death in 2017.

He was a neighborhood character who would often sit outside the old warehouse and invite passersby to take a look inside. Several news crews reported on his collection, including KARE 11’s Boyd Huppert, whose story is still posted on USA Today’s website.

He not only collected hundreds of cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks and mantel clocks, he also had elaborate pipe organs, vintage record players and World War II memorabilia. And he would shape rocks such as Lake Superior agates into spheres.

Patty Wilder, who is the interim executive director of the museum, said there are 706 clocks on display, and visitors will get an appreciation for how accurately these timepieces told time–without being plugged in. “Nowadays kids don’t even know how to tell time, right?,” she said. “I mean we’re not teaching kids how to look at a clock.  Just to be able to tell people the story of the Black Forest German clocks, of cuckoo clocks and other clocks, just the legacy of them.”

Fiorentino was able to collect the clocks from sellers in the Midwest, and did his own repairs to those that needed them. “These were made by everyday German farmers who in order to feed their family in the winter had to come up with something besides farming,” said Wilder of the Black Forest clocks, “and they each would get good at carving a piece and then they would send it to one person who would put the clock together. So it was a great example of how everybody could learn a crafting skill and collaboratively we can feed communities.”

The building used to house the Fiorentino family’s garage door business, but after retirement, it became Jim’s workshop, residence and storage facility for his collections. He left money in his will for maintenance and upkeep of the facility in hopes that no visitors would have to pay admission.

Crews for the past several months have been taking inventory of the collections while contractors work to equip the building with air conditioning and other climate control systems. They hope to have it ready to open in June of 2021. Their phone number is 612-288-9310.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association


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