Clockwork confusion strikes Queen’s

Grant Hall clocks tick along at four different times

Grant Hall clock tower pictured from all four sides.
Grant Hall clock tower pictured from all four sides.

As convocation season carries on, the limestone clock tower on Grant Hall strikes 12. And 1:30. And 6:30, and 1:00. None of these times are correct to Kingston.

The clock tower, which has stood on campus since the turn of the century, displays different times on each of its four faces and has for an indeterminate amount of time.

The North side is set an hour and a half ahead. On the East, it’s an hour behind. The South is six and a half hours in the future, and the West adds an extra hour. For any students wound up by the matter, they can rest assured: history is simply repeating itself.

This is not the first time the Grant Hall clock has fallen out of sync — the current clock is the replacement for an older one, which displayed the wrong time for nearly 100 years.

Grant Hall was originally designed by the architectural firm Symons and Rae, in a Victorian Romanesque style. The firm also designed Kingston Hall and Ontario Hall.

The hall was set to be funded by the Frontenac County Council, and named in their honour.

However, while details were being sorted out, Queen’s Principal Rev. George Monro Grant began publicly opposing the Council’s ban on selling alcohol in Canada, and the Council promptly withdrew their support and funding for the project.

According to archive information by Queen’s, Grant — aging and weak — pleaded with the Council to change their minds, to no avail. This is when his students stepped in.

Over the winter of 1901-02, the students of Queen’s raised the needed $30,000 to complete the building. In 1905, they named it after Grant, who passed away mid-construction in May 1902.

As for the clock, the design was left to Nathan Fellowes Dupuis. Dupuis was a mathematics and science professor at Queen’s, who later became the Dean of Applied Science around 1900.

According to the Queen’s Encyclopedia, the original clock was also inconsistent. In 1993, it was switched — on student dollars — for an electrical mechanism, after “years of unreliable service”.

After an inquiry from The Journal about the current unreliable service, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) John Witjes said that repairs are imminent: the clock is set to become timely once more.

“[The] repairs have been tendered and awarded to a company specializing in this type of work,” he wrote in an email.

“We are waiting [until] after spring convocation to begin the repair work and it will be completed this summer.” 

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