One of the centerpieces of Historic City Hall is expected to be back in operation this fall.

The Seth Thomas Clock is the last remaining clock of its kind in Canada.

The timepiece remains historically significant for the city. When Calgary became a municipality in 1884, there was no town clock.  As a solution, the city had a retired Northwest Mounted Police officer fire a cannon every day at noon for citizens.

What is now known as Historic City Hall opened in January 1911. Four days later, the clock arrived in Calgary.

The clock stopped working in July 2017 but was incorporated into the city hall rehabilitation project. While many citizens and city workers now rely on their smartphones to tell the time, the city hall clock remains an important historical landmark for the city.

CityHall ClockTower Blackhorse5Before there was a city hall clock, people would know the time when the Northwest Mounted Police would fire a cannon at noon. Photo courtesy City of Calgary

Only 50 clocks of its kind were made, with fewer than 12 still operating worldwide that have not been modernized. The clock uses a wind-up system, which requires cranking twice a week.

Jillian Henderson, facility management executive advisor with the City of Calgary, says exterior work is being done to determine which pieces of sandstone need to be replaced.

“It was a great time to do it (repair the clock) because of the fact that they are doing the rehabilitation work and so it was added into the project to make sure the clock would last for another hundred years,” said Henderson.

CityHall ClockTower Blackhorse6Jillian Henderson, spokesperson for the City of Calgary, provides some background on the significance of the clocktower and why repairs needed to be done. Photo: Floyd Black Horse

The restoration project mostly has to do with the exterior sandstone, some of which needs to be replaced.  A spot-treating process is restoring the pieces back to their original states.

“They are going through each individual piece of sandstone in rehabilitating it so that it will last for longer,” Henderson said. “There’s also been work done with weeping tile because one of the reasons that the sandstone was falling is because there is moisture retention happening and it was causing damage to the building.”

The building was vacated during restoration to speed up the process. 

Before repairs began, the offices were being used by councillors, the mayor, city clerks and as a location for committee meetings.

The plan is to figure out how to accommodate everyone moving back in.

“We’re determining who is going to go back in there when it’s going to be done, hopefully by Summer 2020,” Henderson said.

The bell will resume chiming at noon once it has been reinstalled. The bell itself is currently on display in the Calgary Municipal Building for members of the public to see it. 

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