MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The oldest piece of art on downtown Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall will be fully restored.

The team working on it says they made an astonishing and lucky discovery.

The piece is a clock that sits on Peavey Plaza outside Orchestra Hall.

What’s old is becoming new again in an art studio in northeast Minneapolis. “The Clock Team” has been hard to work.

(credit: CBS)

“The more you get to know it like we did as we worked on it, the more you get to appreciate every … funny little nuance of how it works, every little wiggle, every little spring, every little thing that sways around,” said project consultant Norman Andersen.

But this was a long time coming.

“It was commissioned at the time the Nicollet Mall was originally designed for that 1960s version of the Nicollet Mall,” said Kristin Cheronis, the project’s conservationist.

The clock stopped working about a decade ago, and it was disassembled to make room for construction two years ago.

The city got a grant, and the experts went to work.

The empty case of the Nicollet Mall Sculpture Clock (credit: CBS)

“It’s been about a year-and-a-half-long project, and a full half year of it was just researching the clock,” Cheronis said.

They scoured historical archives and old news footage for images in order to make it just as the artist intended.

“We tried to research the artist himself and had a little bit of trouble because he had such a common name, Jack Nelson. But eventually we found him,” Cheronis said.

Jack Nelson, from Syracuse, had passed away. An art conservation intern paid his widow a visit, and found an important box in his upstate New York garage.

It turns out Nelson also had a talent for organization, saving his blue prints from 1968, and much, much more.

Artist Jack Nelson (credit: CBS)

“We were literally jumping for joy, it was incredible,” Cheronis said. “To find original historic photos taken by the artist that carefully detailed him building it, it’s pretty much unheard of.”

After years of repairs and quick fixes, the way the clock was intended to work was finally clear, and so many pieces have been restored to their original purpose.

Andersen says the clock is running like it was more than 40 years ago.

Jack Nelson’s clock is a reminder that not everything gets lost in time.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield