Politics and the Clock Tower

The restored Clock Tower in Kitchener's Victoria Park

Happy Canada Day!

When the bus pulls into the downtown Kitchener Bus Depot, you can see the Clock Tower standing a short way inside Kitchener’s Victoria Park.

It’s a classic structure, and
having caught it with the
Canadian Flag flying so prettily
off the top I thought it was
an appropriate image for a
Canada Day blog post.

Clock Tower Face detail

Of course, there’s a story to go with it.

Once upon a time this elegant clock tower graced the top of the neo-classical Kitchener’s City Hall. In my childhood. One of my family’s rituals was driving around to check out the Christmas light displays, and Kitchener City Hall was always one of the high points.

acrylic painting by Lance Russwurm shows the old Kitchener City Hall at Christmas

In the 1960’s and 1970’s municipalities felt a real push to “modernize”. Old fashioned buildings, even those in perfect shape, buildings that had been built to last, were discarded. Toronto made a big to-do about finding an architect and a space age design and then building their new City Hall. Yet Toronto cleverly retained their “Old City Hall”, which is a gorgeous functioning public building to this day.

Looking up at the Stratford City Hall Facade over the front door

The Kitchener City Council chose to jump on the band wagon of change, although apparently “radical elements” from Waterloo tried to stop it. Not only did the Council decide they wanted to get rid of the fifty year old City Hall, they went further, deciding they didn’t want to be bothered with owning a City Hall building at all.

So Kitchener City Hall went under the wrecking ball in 1973 and the City of Kitchener began renting space downtown in which to conduct official business.

The City of Stratford very nearly followed suit, but their politicians came to their senses. Anyone who has had a wander after visiting the Stratford Shakespeare Festival will appreciate the old style ambiance such lovely architecture provides to their thriving downtown core.

After years of renting, in the 1990’s Kitchener built a brand new City Hall to the tune of $43.4 million dollars.

They bulldozed the cool old city hall in favor of this:

The sterile glass and steel Kitchener City Hall of today.

The elements of the Clock Tower were set aside, fortunately, and funds were raised to restore it and erect it in Kitchener’s Victoria Park. Ironically, today the City of Kitchener uses the iconic clock tower as a logo on their website.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[Image Credit: “Kitchener Christmas Past”acryllic painting by Lance Russwurm]

4 thoughts on “Politics and the Clock Tower

  1. Hey! It’s cool to note that 0$ for the building of city hall came from taxes, and 100% of the wholly-owned building came from profits from our municipally owned utilities.

  2. Which begs the question: what happened to the money from the sale of the original?

    Remember also that municipally owned utilities get their funds from the same source as municipalities: residents.

    It doesn’t matter which pocket the government funds come out of, the poor beleaguered tax payers ultimately foot the bill.

  3. The clock tower was saved only because of quick efforts of The Kitchener Chamber Of Commerce, a group of businessmen,Eugene George and Whit Bradley city engineer

    Archie Gillies, Kitchener Chamber of Commerce.

    • Although I am glad that this piece of local history was saved, it shouldn’t have needed to be saved.

      I’m curious: where did the Kitchener Chamber of Commerce stand on the issue of knocking down the original city hall?

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