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Project scope and status

The rehabilitation of Calgary’s Historic City Hall is one of the most significant heritage projects currently underway in Canada. The scope of work is extensive, including restoration of the building’s foundation, roof, verandas, porticos and other structural components in between. The following is a broad overview of the work that will take place:

  • Sandstone and concrete of the building’s foundation will be renewed
  • New site drainage system
  • New structural steel inside the 100 foot clock tower from the third floor up
  • Structural rehabilitation on verandas and balconies
  • Reinforcement of the cupola and replacement of roof
  • Treatments of almost almost every piece of sandstone on the building. Of the building’s 15,522 pieces of sandstone, 15,142 of those have been specified to require some kind of treatment (cleaning, structural fortification or replacement)
  • New windows to replicate the originals. Original window frames will be rehabilitated
  • Exterior perimeter lighting

Photos taken on January 17, 2017 show the scaffolding build well underway.

The rehabilitation of Historic City Hall will improve the building’s resilience and upgrade it to a condition designed to last for another 100 years. All restoration work will be carried out while protecting heritage materials and characteristics.

What is complete so far:

In 2016, the building foundation was repaired and restored to excellent condition, and new site drainage has been installed. The site has now been prepared for the rehabilitation work that will take place over the next three years, with trailers onsite for crews and a masonry workshop where the sandstone work will be managed.

What we’re working on now:

Starting this summer, a new steel endoskeleton made of cross-braced steel girders will be installed inside the clock tower. This fortification will fully brace the structure from the third floor up. The tower’s core currently consists of sandstone blocks and red bricks, but no steel, and data has shown that the tower has shifted slightly over the last century.

To facilitate installation of the tower’s steel reinforcement, City Hall’s famous clock will be silenced for the first substantial time period since it started ticking in January 1911. An expert horologist will stop the clock and it will be partially dismantled. In order to preserve the treasured timepiece, the clock’s four 8-foot faces and its hands – measuring 4’ and 2.5’ – will be temporarily removed and stored, along with the pendulum and weights that set the clockworks in motion. These precious components will then be enclosed and sealed in a specially manufactured steel paneled box to ensure their safety while the clock’s tower home is under construction.

The hammer that strikes the 1,500 pound bell on the half-hour and hour will also be disconnected for the first time in 106 years.

The timepiece was made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company, which also supplied clocks to the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is one of The City of Calgary’s most valuable artifacts, purchased in 1910 for approximately $3,000. In 2017 currency, this would be a cost of roughly $69,000. To read more about Historic City Hall’s illustrious clock, please visit our historic stories and images gallery.

What is coming up next:

Structural reinforcements will be the focus of the remainder of 2017.

The original roof foundation – made of Douglas fir supplied by the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company – will be exposed. Original wood will be saved whenever possible, however some rotted areas will be removed and the roof will be braced with new lumber and metal supports.

The roof’s dormers will be fortified with pins and anchors at their bases to strengthen their attachment to the building. Structural restoration will take place in the cupola’s interior, where rust has caused deterioration. Last but not least, the building’s verandas and balconies will be reinforced in preparation for their role in supporting the building for the next century.

The installation of the steel endoskeleton and anchors inside the clock tower (see “what we’re working on now”) will continue through to the end of 2019.