Take a peek at this rare view inside the City Hall clock tower

BY JOANNE SASVARI | PHOTO BY JEFFREY BOSDET

For over 130 years — ever since noon on May 5, 1891 — the City Hall clock has been letting Victorians know what time it is. Right now, it’s time (see what we did there?) to learn a bit more about this downtown landmark.

Back when Queen Victoria was still on the throne, the booming city named for her decided it needed a proper municipal hall. Architect John Teague got to work and, in stages, Victoria City Hall rose from the corner of Douglas Street and Pandora Avenue, the first section in 1877, followed by the fire hall in 1880, and the north wing and clock tower in 1890. (A new wing housing council chambers was added in 1962 as part of the Centennial Square project, and, in 1977, City Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.)

Teague designed his hall in the eclectic Second Empire style, which combines different historic motifs as well as modern materials like glass and iron. In City Hall’s case, that means a mansard roof with dormers, multi-hued brickwork, rich ornamentation and a 105-foot-high clock tower featuring a four-faced mechanical clock manufactured in England by Gillett and Johnson. 

Over time, the tower fell prey to neglect and in 2006, at a cost of $125,000, it was returned to its original glory: the rusted sheet metal that covered it was replaced; the long-missing 20 urns that sat above and below the clock were restored; and 10 layers of paint were removed from the clock bell, allowing it to once again ring every hour. 

Its time, it seems, had come again.