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