New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Clock at Fredericton City Hall

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From the blog at

The Clock at Fredericton City Hall

The history of Phoenix Square goes back to at least 1822, when a building was proposed for the fire department and a temperance hall, where City Council also met. There were several fires over the years and facilities were rebuilt each time. This history was reviewed in an earlier blog posting entitled Risen From the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton, at

The present City Hall was completed in 1876, but the property around it was undeveloped — and a bit of a mess of hay and cordwood markets. There was no fountain out front, and the clock tower was empty. Mayor George Fenety wanted to develop the area, and his first step was to install a clock in the tower. Later on, he also championed the building of the fountain and the relocation of the public markets.

Fredericton City Hall Today, Complete With the Clock

From Wikimedia

Following is a summary of events leading to the installation of the clock.

April 3, 1877: Mayor George Fenety made a ‘Proposition to City Council for obtaining a Clock.’ The previous Council had included a clock-tower in the design of the new City Hall, and it was now time for the new Council to provide the clock.

Fenety had determined that a 1,500 lb. bell from the United States would cost about $560, and that a suitable clock from London would cost $1,312. A clock could be bought from the United States at a lower cost, but Fenety favoured the superior British model. Altogether, he thought that a clock and bell could be purchased and installed for about $2,000. Some money was on hand from a recent concert, but a loan would be required for the balance.

Fenety did not want raise taxes, or to pay for the project by subscription. Instead, he proposed that the proceeds from concerts be used to pay off the loan within three or four years. In addition, he offered that his $200 salary be abolished and credited toward the clock. The annual $200 salary saving could then be used for cleaning up Phoenix Square which was a jumble of hay and cordwood markets. Fenety also offered to guarantee the City’s loan.

April 3, 1877: The proposal was accepted, and Aldermen Beek, Richey, Simmons, Dykeman, and Moore were appointed a Committee to progress the matter.

April 19, 1877: The Committee presented their report, having consulted with Messrs. Shute, Babbit and James White, who were knowledgeable about clocks. The report was adopted and James White was appointed to go to Boston to inspect several clock manufacturers and to compile a specification for the work.

April 26, 1877: White arrived in Boston and inspected several manufacturers and several actual installations and found them all acceptable.

May 15, 1877: White presented his findings to the Mayor, but also reported upon correspondence of April 27, 1877 from Gillett & Bland of London. A London clock would be superior to the American clock in several respects and its manufacture would be superintended by Sir William Beckett, “a man of the highest scientific attainments in such matters.” In addition, the London clock would be slightly cheaper, even FOB Fredericton. He therefore recommended that the Gillett & Bland proposal be accepted, but that the bell be ordered separately, from William Blake & Co. in Boston.

May 15, 1877: James White’s report was accepted and the Mayor was authorized to borrow $2,000 on behalf of the City and to arrange for the supply of a clock and bell, with at least three dials, and perhaps four. It was further agreed to credit the Mayor’s $200 salary toward the project.

May 15, 1877: The Revisors, Aldermen Dykeman, Beek, Neville, Estey, and Moore each surrendered their salaries toward paying off the loan, $10 each and $50 in total. [Revisor: A person responsible for editing legislation in order to make it consistent with other provisions of the law.]

June, 1877: The bell had been obtained from Boston, and was installed.

June 6, 1877: Gillett and Bland of London acknowledged The Mayor’s order of the clock.

March 20, 1878: The clock was completed and shipped on this date.

January 21, 1878: Fenety had lost reelection and, on this date, asked Council if he should complete the project, or hand over the file to a successor.

January 24, 1878: Council agreed that George Fenety should carry on and finish his work with the clock and bell.

April 7, 1878: The clock arrived in Halifax aboard the steamer Peruvian.

April 9, 1878: The clock arrived in Fredericton by rail.

May 1, 1878 at 12 o’clock noon: The clock, having been installed in the City Hall tower, was struck for the first time.

May 7, 1878: Fenety submitted a closing statement of accounts to Council. The final cost had been $2,012.69, compared with an initial estimate of $2,000 and a later more detailed calculation of $1,893.44 (plus installation).

June, 1878: George Fenety was no longer Mayor, but he was knowledgeable about the project. He therefore gathered a chronology of events leading to the installation and of the current plans for paying off the debt. This blog posting is based upon his chronology.

Fenety’s closing thoughts:

  • Some people had proposed an illuminated dial fronting on York Street. Fenety estimated the first-cost of this to be $250, with an annual operating cost of $120. His recommendation was to leave this for future consideration.
  • There was a wooden grill underneath the clock on each face of the tower, and Fenety found these unpleasing and “barn-like”. He recommended that they be replaced with something better. [There are metal louvres there today.]

Written by johnwood1946

May 31, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Hello. I live in Fredericton. I look after the clock. And submit any complaints to the City. I’ve visited the bell twice. The lovers on the tower are actually wood. As they have started rotting. If there is any more info you would like, let me know and I will try my best to answer them:)

    Alexandre Leblanc

    April 29, 2018 at 5:34 AM

    • Thank you Alexandre. BTW, my not-so-modest proposal is that the clock post, and the other one entitled “Risen from the Ashes, Phoenix Square in Fredericton” might be suitable for the City’s social media sites. And yes, I am shamelessly anxious to increase the visibility of my blog. “Fredericton’s Great Flood of 1936” has also been popular lately. 🙂


      April 29, 2018 at 9:39 AM

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