Brockville clock tower revitalization will bring it into the 21st century
BROCKVILLE -- One of Brockville's most recognizable landmarks is getting a makeover, and it's about time. Literally.
High above Brockville City Hall, the clock tower’s bell has been silent, replace by the sound of construction tools.
"Weather is not kind to most things in Canada, and this is no exception," said city of Brockville director of operations Phil Wood.
The last time the tower saw major work was back in 1987, and over the last decade or so, signs of wear and tear on the structure could be noticed from the ground.
Wood says a key element of the project is to maintain the clock’s heritage value, with the team keeping in touch with the Ontario Heritage Trust.
"We are looking to remove all of the wood that is in need of replacement, re-paint, touch up, to make it last for a long time in the future," he said. "The clock mechanisms will be replaced, the faces of the clock will be re-worked so the new movement timing mechanisms will be installed as well as all of the exterior and facades."
John Hamelin of Hamelin Construction has over 45 years of experience working on heritage buildings. He says every site has different hurdles.
"These (wood) mouldings are 100 and some years old and have been reproduced a few different times," Hamelin said. "So trying to make it back the way it was is always a challenge.
"Now there are going to be products that we can use to give it a longer life span and that's what I'm going to try and do here," Hamelin added.
Some wood pieces had even started rotting away, causing a potential safety hazard below.
"You actually wanted to take it off before it actually did fall," said steeplejack Mark Blanchard. "Some of the stuff was just hanging here."
The clock elements like the numbers and the glass have already been removed. The numbers will get sandblasted and refreshed, and the glass will be replaced.
The clock hands will also get an upgrade.
"The hands are wood. We've taken them off, they are going to be replaced," said Brandon Elderhorst of Elderhorst Bells Canada, a fifth-generation clock-worker. "They are going to be the same shape, they are going to be black but we're going to replace them with an aluminum long lasting hand."
Brandon’s father Jeff said some new clock parts are coming all the way from Europe.
"They make really good clock parts in Belgium so we're going to be ordering that, the motors and gears and the electronics, and then we will put in our own special programming here and set it up and it'll run like clockwork," he said, bringing the clock into the 21st century.
"If the power goes out or you know spring and fall time changes, it’s all going to be automatically set on its own.”
"It's one of the centrepieces of the city, it's important," he added. "It's a big project for us and it's great to have it re-done and it's going to look nice and new but still look like the original.”
With an estimated cost of over $200,000, the city received grants from Infrastructure Canada and the federal gas tax program.
The aim is to have the project completed by the fall.
"We've been planning this job for quite some time and the project span is based around the clock mechanism which is coming from Europe," Wood said. "They are estimated at six weeks so ideally the bracket of the job will be around two months and hopefully not too much more."
"Hopefully in two to three months the scaffolding will be coming down and we will be looking at fresh new clock tower," Wood added.
Everyone involved is proud to be able to work on something so special.
"I think that's part of what we're excited about. It’s a very big part of our identity of Brockville, it's on most of our materials that identify the city,” Wood said. “It's symbolic."