P1319 King and Frederick Streets, 1925 (WHS Collection)
As ION heads north, our time travel journey will take us back to 1925 and an iconic place in Kitchener history and in our hearts. Do you recognize the building in the centre of the image?
The panoramic photograph above shows the intersection of King and Frederick Streets in August 1925. In the centre, you will see the beloved and stately old City Hall, built in 1924.
Designed by architects, W.H.E. Schmalz and B.A. Jones, it replaced an aging 1869 town hall built on the same site. Described stylistically as modern Roman in the Ionic order, newspaper reports noted that the council chambers were judged worthy of a chamber in the palaces of Versailles or Potsdam.
It was officially opened on 15 November 1924. Frederick Street was closed to traffic for the ceremony. A reported crowd of 20,000 attendees danced until midnight to music played by the Kitchener Musical Society band.
Over the years, City Hall has been remembered for its Christmas lighting, public gatherings, graceful centre stairs, and hub as civic place. For many years, the Kitchener police department had their headquarters in the basement. The street railway and, later, trolley buses, had a stop with a comfort station on King Street, in front of City Hall. The cenotaph was also relocated from a traffic island on Frederick Street to the front lawn.
When plans for the revitalization of Kitchener’s downtown were discussed in the early 1970s, controversy raged over the proposal to tear down City Hall to make way for the Market Square development and to build a larger and modern municipal building. On 7 September 1973, the doors to City Hall closed and staff moved to a new leased facility. Demolition of the building followed.
Public outcry over the demolition of City Hall helped to ensure that the iconic clock tower was saved and stored for future reconstruction. On 1 July 1995, the clock tower came to life again at the entrance to Victoria Park following a public rededication ceremony.
This is post 13 of 19 in the Stories That Move You series.
Stories that Move You is a Kitchener Public Library project that celebrates the launch of ION service with curated collections of reads, music, audio, learning resources, and local history to help people make the most of an unique window of time during their public transit ride.