If you really want to go back in time I suggest a visit to the Ladd Observatory. But what is its connection to a certain downtown coffee shop? Seen here is observatory curator Michael Umbricht next to an old clock from the R.I. Electric Protective Co., a company originally located at 32 Custom House Street, now the site of the Coffee Connection. We take “standard time” for granted, but back in the 19th-century when trains started crashing into each other — including one spectacular accident here in Rhode Island — the search for a solution became urgent.
A piece of the Electric Protective promotional material is on display in the observatory: “What Time Is It?” explains how one company saw an opportunity.
The “Protective Company” is now prepared to furnish and maintain clocks and time signals of all sizes and every description for Towers and Public Buildings, Schools and Factories and Business Offices. Telegraph Time service constantly maintained by special lines from the Observatory gives absolute uniformity, and their system directly supplies all the leading watchmakers (and, indirectly all the others) in the city, various transportation lines and hundreds of establishments where correctness is an object. Estimates furnished for illuminated tower clocks, advertising clocks, programme clocks time balls, etc. Ornamental self-winding regulators and little “minute jumpers.”
All important clocks or bells upon which the public depend should be thus maintained.
Happily you can still visit that old building all while enjoying a cup of coffee and a delicious muffin. Signs of the original business are all around, including an elevator and a beautiful old clock (below).
So head downtown Sunday morning and celebrate your extra hour of sleep at the Coffee Connection. (See if the clock is right.) And big thanks to manager Moe for her enthusiasm and patience listening to me try to explain this as quickly as possible.
What a gorgeous building. Built in 1875, the upper floors are now residential units.
A piece of ephemera from Electric Protective: “Our standard time is computed from Ladd Observatory”