Ticking away the century

Cranbrook's clock tower mechanism and its 101-year history.

An interesting article was brought to my attention recently, straight out of the archives of the Daily Townsman regarding the clock tower mechanism and its 101-year history in Cranbrook. As a followup to the article in the recent July 23 issue about the missed opportunity for a community celebration of the mechanism’s century-long history in Cranbrook, here is a widening of the historical lens back to 1913.

On Nov. 6, 1913, the Cranbrook Herald announced that the Raworth Bros. had finished installing the bell in the post office tower on the corner of Baker Street and Norbury Avenue (10th Avenue).

“It tolls the hours night and day and serves to remind the late sleeper in the early morning that it is time to be up and going,” the article reads. The bank reported that the merchants are meeting their drafts better since the new clock was installed.

In fact, the bell was the crowning touch on the newly built post office building, which housed not only the post office, but also the customs office, a private office and large store rooms for parcels. The fine red pressed brick and grey stone building with the central clock tower sat at the corner of the streets.

The new post office was built that year to replace the cramped quarters of the old building. On March 3, 1913, staff made the move to the new building. The post office staff in the new building in 1913 was Postmaster Henderson; Miss Havill, assistant; Miss Leamanm, register clerk; Miss Finley, delivery clerk; Misses Bardgett and Dixon, dispatch clerks.

On Jan. 8, 1969, the Cranbrook Courier reported that in the 1950s, the new post office was becoming inadequate for the rapid business growth of the city at the time and a large addition was added to the rear.

Again in 1969, space was becoming inadequate and work had begun on a completely new and larger building one block south on 10th Avenue, the post office’s current location.

Postmaster Pat Fennessy informed the writer that their staff now consisted of 15 workers in the office and nine mail delivery men, for a total of 24. In 1976 Fennessey told Townsman Editor Dave Kay that the total had almost doubled to 43 employees.

The author of the article had concerns about what fate might befall the Baker Street post office building when the new one was complete.

“When this structure is completed, this writer is fearful of what might happen to that old building which has housed the post office, customs office, etc. for these many years.”

The writer felt it was “one of the finest edifices in town” and hoped it wouldn’t face the same fate as the old Royal Bank building.

“We have all too few fine brick and stone structures in Cranbrook, and we deplore seeing the bulldozer wrecking any of them.”

Of course the article proved to be quite accurate and the demolition took place in 1971. The clock mechanism itself was removed and stored at Fort Steele prior to the demolition.

In 1976, when Kay, along with Dan MacDonald, wrote the article, he wistfully looked upon or rather up at the vacant spot where the old post office clock used to be.

“If you’ve been a resident of Cranbrook for many years — at least ten or more — do you ever find yourself absent-mindedly looking up to see what time it is on the old post office clock in the corner of Baker Street and Norbury Avenue?” Kay wrote. “It seems of late more and more people are advocating that the old four-faced clock be again set up on a tower in a prominent place somewhere on Baker Street in the downtown area.”

Kay suggested the SuperValu lot next to the traffic light on Baker and 11th Avenue or perhaps the north-west corner of Baker Street and Cranbrook Street.

“Anyway, folks, let’s get some action and get the project going — and that means you – and you – and you, dear reader.”

Of course we all know where it ended up — in the square near Baker Street and 9th Avenue. In 1985, the clock tower was dedicated to the citizens of Cranbrook and sponsored by the Cranbrook Rotary Club.


Arne Petryshen is a reporter at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.