Tall and proud - Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower
"If one would see the real beauty of Brisbane; if one would escape the tyranny of hard footpaths and noisy streets; if one would find seclusion in the very heart of the city, it is to be found at the top of the tower of the new City Hall."
Some 83 years ago, for the opening of Brisbane's then new City Hall, The Telegraph newspaper (April 8, 1930) used these words to describe what has become one of Brisbane's most treasured icons, the City Hall clock tower.
Certainly one of City Hall's most ‘striking’ features (pardon the pun) the clock tower stands 92 meters (about 300 feet) above ground level, and when constructed was declared the highest in the Commonwealth. Indeed for many years, it was the tallest structure in Brisbane.
Over the decades, many have enjoyed the ride up the clock tower - as did I on my first visit to City Hall in 1990. The ride up the tower was in the heritage elevator, whose open-cage sides allowed a fascinating internal view as we passed right by the four clock dials on the way to the viewing platform. Here's one image of the view from the tower lookout back then:
A little digging around recently led me to find some interesting facts and other snippets of information about the clock and the tower:
- When City Hall opened in 1930, the tower had a red glowing sphere on its apex - visible for miles it was intended as an aviation beacon
- The clock was designed and built by the Brisbane Jackson family firm Synchronome Electrical Company
- At that time, the electric automatic clock - which did not require winding - was the most modern in Australia, and also the largest
- Each clock face is almost 5 meters in diameter; the minute hands are 3 meters long
- Hail from a fierce storm in December 1946 smashed the clock face on the Adelaide St side
- In late 1930, nearby hotel keepers argued that the quarter-hourly chiming of the new clock after dark was disturbing guests, was bad for business and that the “…the pealing of the chimes from the clock tower constitutes annoying noises in the night”
- In 1935, a woman suffered a "terrible ordeal" while visiting the tower. She reportedly climbed over railings 4 feet high to retrieve her bag which had dropped from the viewing platform, but then found she couldn’t climb back. When she was seen clinging to the outside of the railing, a constable was sent to her assistance
"...tyranny of hard footpaths and noisy streets..."
For more information about the history of City Hall and the clock tower, John Oxley Library resources include publications, original materials, newspaper clippings, and images.
Maxine Fisher - Digital Content Coordinator, State Library of Queensland