Aging clock tower gets facelift with wolf ritual artwork and storyboards

Port Alberni, BC

As part of Port Alberni city council’s commitment to reconciliation and infrastructure renewal, the city has begun the process of repurposing the 40-year-old clock tower at the Harbour Quay.

The clock tower will be redesigned to highlight Tseshaht First Nation culture. The two large clocks will be removed at the top of the tower and replaced with two larger pieces of Tseshaht art depicting the wolf. The redevelopment will highlight the narrative of the former site of Tlukwatkwuu7is, the Tseshaht Winter Village, where Tlookwaana (wolf ritual) was held.

The city has been working with the Tseshaht First Nation towards the recognition of this important site for several years. Story boards will also be installed at each of the three platforms of the tower. The city is now referring to the structure as a Story Tower instead of a clock tower.

The artwork is being designed by Tseshaht artist Willard Gallic Jr. and manufactured by Electron Metalworks.  

Gallic Jr. said his designs include a male and female, each wearing a wolf head dress for the top of the tower, and then four other wolf designs that will be installed going up the stairwell on the outside of the tower.

“This was a very important site….this is where we did our wolf ceremony,” Gallic Jr. said. “That’s the reason why they wanted a male and female up there with a wolf head dress because this is where we had our ceremonies at the beginning of wintertime.”

The clock tower redesign has been a topic of discussion among Port Alberni city council for many years.

The anticipated total cost for the project is around $453,750. The cost increased when the city discovered that the clock tower is covered with lead-based paint that needs to be safely removed.

“The issue isn’t so much the paint as it is introducing the dust from the paint into the environment,” said City CAO Tim Pley during a council meeting in October 2020. “If we are going to grind and cut on that structure, we’re told that in order to be within regulation, the entire structure needs to be shrouded and all that dust captured and collected.”

Last year, the city received $76,818 in grant funding for the clock tower project and city council agreed to put an additional $101,932 into the budget from two different reserve funds. This is in addition to the $351,818 already set aside for the project in past budgets.

All city councillors are in support of the project.

“I think it’s going to be a huge asset to the Harbour Quay area, and I think it’s going to be a huge step in reconciliation as well,” said Coun. Deb Haggard.

In addition to the artwork, new lighting will be installed on the tower and steel reinforcement to support the new artwork.

Construction still hasn’t started, but is said to begin soon. Work is estimated to be complete by April 2022.

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