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Frozen in time no more

More than 50 important deferred maintenance projects are currently underway in Queen’s facilities. 

  • [View from atop Grant Hall tower]
    A bird's-eye view of Lake Ontario is made possible with the removal of the Grant Hall clock hands.
  • [Plaque inside Grant Hall tower]
    A plaque inside Grant Hall tower recognizes Professor Nathan Dupuis for designing the original tower clock.
  • [Larry Pattison]
    Larry Pattison, Director, Engineering and Operations, PPS, explains how the Grant Hall clock will be repaired.
  • [Workers repairing stones]
    A mason repairs the stonework on the south side of Grant Hall.
  • [Grant Hall repairs]
    Masons are hard at work repairing the stonework on Grant Hall.

What’s up with the clock on Grant Hall tower?

It’s a timeless question asked by many who look up only to see the clock’s hands frozen in time.

Now, the university is taking action to ensure the Grant Hall clock is right more than twice a day.

“Because Grant Hall and its tower are such iconic Queen’s landmarks, we believe it’s important that the clock functions properly,” says John Witjes, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities). “That’s why we’ve made the clock-tower restoration a priority during this summer’s deferred maintenance work.”  

And work has already begun. Local company Elderhorst Bell Canada has removed the original clock hands that date back to 1905. After they are restored, the clock hands will be reinstalled and powered by a new electrical mechanism.

The Grant Hall Tower Clock
♦ Nathan Dupuis, a Queen’s professor of mathematics and other sciences, and dean of practical science in the early 20th century, designed the original tower clock.
♦ The university replaced the original clock in 1993 with an electrical mechanism designed in England.
♦ Students paid for the mechanism, continuing a tradition of supporting Grant Hall that began in 1901 when students raised $35,000 so that construction of the building could move ahead.
♦ The original clock mechanism designed by Professor Dupuis is on display in Stirling Hall. A plaque inside the Grant Hall tower also recognizes Professor Dupuis’ contribution to the original clock.
♦ Learn more about Grant Hall in the Queen’s Encyclopedia.

The new electronic mechanism is expected to have a longer lifespan and offer new functionality such as automatically updating for time changes and resetting after power outages.

In addition to the clock, the university is also repairing the stonework on Grant Hall and several other buildings including Ontario Hall. Physical Plant Services (PPS) is working with a heritage preservation specialist to ensure that reinforcing the structural integrity of the buildings is done in a historically sensitive manner.

“We want to be good stewards of these assets and, as such, we are using the best and most historically appropriate methods and materials,” says Larry Pattison, Director, Engineering and Operations, PPS.

Masons are removing stones that are badly weathered, damaged or broken. They are replacing them with stones from locations nearby the quarries of the original stones. This will ensure the new stones blend in as they weather. Masons are also repointing, which involves replacing the mortar between the stones that has become fragile. The workers are also re-grouting so that the mortar between the inner and outer layers of stones is solid.

Just up University Avenue, PPS is carrying out another restoration project on the John Deutsch University Centre. Crews are removing windows and sending them off to be repaired and restored.

Deferred maintenance work across campus

More than 50 important deferred maintenance projects are currently underway in Queen’s facilities. These include modernizing Mackintosh-Corry Hall and MacArthur Hall elevators, structural and wall repair at Victoria Hall, power supply modernization at Harrison-LeCaine Hall and Mackintosh-Corry Hall, various roof repairs and replacement and modernization of five fire alarm systems. 

While the bulk of the work will take place over the summer months, according to Mr. Pattison, PPS will continue with deferred maintenance projects through the fall and winter, as long as it doesn’t disrupt building occupants.