Calgary’s old City Hall reopens after four years of renovation work

A sandstone beauty: After four years of renovation 2016-2020, Calgary historic City Hall recently re-opened on Sept. 15. The building stands at 7th Avenue  and  Macleod Trail S.E. downtown. (Photo by Chirag/The Press)


Calgary’s historic City Hall is now open after City Council spent $34.1 million to renovate the old sandstone landmark.

“This beautiful building is now 109 years old and is the only surviving city hall from its time in Western Canada,” said Darrel Bell, director of facility management at the city of Calgary, at  the re-opening ceremony.

The renovations took four years to finish since the decision to save this building was made and signed off on in 2015.

The building features the original clock tower and Seth Thomas clock, the only timepiece of its kind in Canada. The clock’s bell weights nearly 3,000 pounds. In 1911, the clock cost was $3,500, but is now being valued at nearly $92,000.

While the clock has been running, it still needs repair work but few people in North America can fix it. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, clock repair is pending.

“I want to say thank you to Darrel,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the re-opening event. Over the past four years, the project created 233 full-time jobs for stonemasons, carpenters, construction management and electricians. Overall, 1,135 people worked on this project.

About 400 original red tiles from 1911 were used to renovate the roof of the building. Roof tiles were ordered from the same manufacturing company that supplied the original tiles a century ago.

“We installed the rainwater management system which is housed inside the building and connected to a weeping tile,” said Bell. This will help keep the building from suffering water damage.

Another adaptation was the steel used to realign the original sandstone and bricks used to build the 100-foot clock tower.

The new old: After four years of renovation 2016-2020, Calgary historic City Hall recently re-opened on Sept. 15. The building is last of the original sandstone city hall buildings  in Western Canada. (Photo by Chirag/The Press)

Only two out of 191 original wooden frames were in use to restore windows.

The old clock has special meaning for the mayor.

“When I was a kid going to school riding [the] C-Train, I didn’t always have a watch. They didn’t have cell phones then. So, when I got just pass the Olympic Plaza station, I would look up and I would know from that clock whether or not I would make my bus at the other end,” Nenshi recalled.