Description of Historic Place
Prominently sited on the Victoria Pier, the Clock Tower is a highly visible feature in the Old Port of Montréal. The lightly painted concrete structure consists of a principal clock tower, a smaller tower, and a curtain wall linking the two. The clock tower is distinguished by its elegant silhouette, by its judicious choice of decorative Beaux-Arts elements, and by its commemorative features. The smaller tower is designed in a similar manner and complements the clock tower. The designation is confined to the footprint of the two towers and adjoining wall.
The Clock Tower is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Clock Tower is an eloquent symbol of the importance of the Port of Montréal in the history of transportation in Canada. When the tower was built, Montréal handled more grain exports than any other port in the world and ranked second in North America in terms of total cargo. The Clock Tower is also associated with the major contribution of the port to the economic development of the city of Montréal. The tower commemorates the courage of the seamen of the Merchant Marine who perished in the First World War.
The Clock Tower is valued for its very good aesthetic qualities, which reside in its elegant silhouette, the excellence of its composition, and in the judicious choice of decorative elements in the Beaux-Arts style. The very good functional design of the tower integrates, in an ingenious fashion, its commemorative role as a memorial with its role as a clock tower. The curtain wall was included to conceal the grain sheds and conveyors, eventually demolished in the 1970s. The choice of a reinforced concrete structure with light masonry facing resulted from the need to minimize the weight of the monument on the wharf and is indicative of its high quality craftsmanship and materials.
The Clock Tower establishes the historic character of the Old Port of Montréal and was the focal point of the redevelopment of the Victoria Pier in 1990 by award-winning architects, Cardinal Hardy and Associates. The tower is a major landmark and is pictured in the logo of the Old Port of Montréal.
Sources: Christiane Lefebvre, Clock Tower, Old Port of Montréal, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office, Building Report, 96-035; Clock Tower, Montréal, Québec, Heritage Character Statement, 96-035.
The following character-defining elements of the Clock Tower should be respected.
Its very good aesthetic design, very good functional design and very good materials and craftsmanship, for example:
- the massing, which consists of a principal tower on a square base crowned with an observation deck, a smaller tower, and a curtain wall linking the two;
- the highly ordered composition of the upper part of the tower with four backlit clock faces near the top and an ensemble of decorative elements in the Beaux-Arts style;
- the lower part of the principal tower’s elevations, including the entrance on the east façade, the memorial on the north façade, the west façade adorned with pilasters, and the south wall, which shows signs of an old opening;
- the vertical thrust of the tower’s smooth exterior walls, accented at each corner by columns topped by an eagle;
- the commemorative elements such as the plaques, the granite block unveiled by the Prince of Wales, the massive concrete pillars, and the two cannons in front;
- the small tower’s corners, treated as pilasters to support decorative volutes and the lower portions decorated with a pillar sitting atop guilloched pilasters;
- the expansion joint which links the curtain wall to the main tower;
- the exposed structural elements and custom-made masonry blocks of the interior.
- the clock faces and mechanisms.
The manner in which the Clock Tower establishes the historic character of its port setting in Montréal, and is a well-known building, as evidenced by:
- its distinctive profile, design, and materials, which dominate its immediate area;
- its high visibility within the area, which makes it well-known to residents and visitors of the area;
- its role as a memorial and its use as the logo for the Old Port of Montréal, which assert its landmark status.