116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The first of what would be several Boyson retail sites in Cedar Rapids was George Boyson’s West Side Pharmacy, which opened in 1897 at 100 Third Ave. West.
It didn’t hurt the growing business when Uncle Sam allowed the establishment of a postal substation there, the first on the west side of the Cedar River.
Peter Boyson joined his brother at the drug store in 1901. The following year, the company reorganized and increased its capital with George remaining president, but adding H.J. Boyson, Peter and George’s father, as vice president.
The Boyson company moved to the Kimball building in 1908, and brother Adolph joined the business, setting up a corner of the store as a jewelry store.
After fire gutted the Kimball building in 1916, Peter decided to move to California. Adolph moved his jewelry store into temporary quarters while a new location, known as the Higley building, was being built.
Adolph’s jewelry company moved into the new Higley building in February 1918. It was described in The Gazette as “one of the most beautiful and most modern jewelry stores in Cedar Rapids. … The walls are bordered with glass cases, whole two rows of show cases with isle (sic) in the center extend the length of the room. In the rear of the store is an optical room and manufacturing department. A rear door leads to the lobby of the building.”
The clock arrives
Adolph also decided to add something unusual outside.
Anchored in the pavement at the front of the store was a large clock. “Previous to its erection, Third Avenue and Second Street was greatly in need of a public time piece,” The Gazette reported.
In 1929 the sidewalk clock was accompanied for a week by an old water clock that was displayed in the store window.
“The clock, which is owned by the Hamilton Watch Co., is known as an English Clepsydra and was discovered while the company was searching for unique pieces for its horological collection,” The Gazette reported.
Clepsydra means “thief of water” in Greek. The clock had been made by R. Hopwood in London in 1682 and was exhibited at Boyson’s for a week.
Boyson Jewelry Co.
The Boyson Jewelry Co. incorporated in 1930 with Adolph as president, treasurer and general manager. Alice Boyson was first vice president and secretary, and Acile E. Tappen was second vice president.
When the jewelry store moved to 213 Third Ave. in 1936, the clock moved with it.
Adolph died on Dec. 31, 1965. His successor was his son, Wallace Boyson. Wallace’s sons, Robert and Bruce Boyson, became the third generation of Boysons to manage the store.
Repairs and moves
The clock hadn’t been working for several months when Bruce Boyson took it apart in February 1987 to repair it.
“Since we have warm weather out, I wanted to get it taken apart today,” he said. “The next warm day I will work on it more. I’ve got to keep C.R. on time.”
By 1996, Boyson’s was in the new 201 Town Centre office complex created from a revamped Killian department store. There, Robert and his son Brett ran the show in a store that incorporated two hardwood jewelry cases from the past store. Brett also had a shot glass at his desk from the old Boyson soda fountain.
“A guy came in with it and wanted to trade it for a watch,” Brett said. “He had a deal.”
If anything could stop the Boyson clock it was the flood of 2008. Gazette columnist Todd Dorman reported in his June 17, 2008, column that floodwaters “rose to at least 8 feet. The big, iron Boyson Jewelry clock is frozen at 12:16 a.m., the moment the power went out.”
After the flood, Boyson’s followed several downtown stores to Marketplace on First, across First Avenue from Lindale Mall. It took a while before the clock was removed from Town Centre, but it now has been installed at the newest Boyson site at 4701 First Ave. SE, miles away from the Cedar River’s waters.