Early Sunday morning, Father Stephen Planning will clamber up four flights of rickety wooden stairs in the clock tower of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church on North Capitol Street and change the face of time.

With a slight turn of a small gear, the new president of Gonzaga College High School will reset the clock to reflect the end of daylight saving time. Its four faces will remind the city’s denizens below that the hour they thought had just ended has, in fact, just begun.

Early last year, the clock, which was built during the Civil War by Brother Blaise Walch, a Jesuit clockmaker, began showing its age. It had become reliably unreliable. School officials worried that it had ticked its last tock, so they shut it down and ordered a full restoration that took four months to complete.

But there’s a question Gonzaga might have considered before laying out thousands for the repair: Why bother? Public clocks, after all, have outlived their necessity. From our smartphones and computers to our microwaves and coffee makers, we are surrounded by clocks. If we need to know the time, we look down, not up. Why cling to a vestige of an era that has evaporated?

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