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Calgary looking for a new fix to the old historic city hall clock

When the more-than-century-old historic city hall clock was refurbished three years ago, the intent was for the time to be right more than twice a day.

The City of Calgary is currently investigating why the clock’s tick tock has stopped.

Jilian Henderson, executive advisor with facility management with the City of Calgary, said the problem was discovered within the past month.

The clock has to be wound twice a week. It can’t go more than five days without being wound.

“While winding the clock, we discovered that it was not keeping time,” Henderson said.

The Seth Thomas Clock, one of only 50 made and five remaining in Canada, had unexpectedly broken down prior to the start of the 2017 historic city hall rehabilitation.

The clock sat, for a time, in the Calgary municipal building while its home at historic city hall underwent a $34 million rehabilitation.

It was later fixed, shined up like new and reinstalled in the building when the renovation was complete. The cost to fully restore it was $250,000. That included the glass, the interior housing and the clock mechanism itself, Henderson said.

Henderson said they’d try to determine if this is an age-related issue, or if it’s the repair of one of the hundreds of pieces that make up the intricate clock. The intent was, when repaired, that the clock would once again last for years.

The clock strikes midnight

Once the investigation is complete, the city will determine what comes next.

“It was a hard fix to get it working again. And so, we’re trying to investigate to see if there’s a bigger issue with it,” Henderson said.

It’s too soon to determine what comes next for the clock.

“Ideally, we’d like to keep it up to working order but like you said it has to be the right investment for the city,” Henderson said.

What about replacement with something newer, more modern?

Again, Henderson said they need to see what they’re dealing with.

“We would have to kind of cross that bridge when we get there,” she said.

They’re hoping they can find an answer by June. Then, they’ll determine how to handle it.

One hurdle is finding the expertise to do any repair work.

“It definitely is harder to find that specialized skill to work on these types of historic clocks,” Henderson said.

The clock originally cost the city $3,500 back in 1911. That’s roughly $125,000 in 2022 money.