Hamilton's hidden history: The bell that rang for Canada's 100th birthday

For Canada's 100th birthday the Hamilton Germania Club gave the city the foundation base for the old bell, which is now located on top of the City Centre tower. After 50 years, the club is hoping people will still remember that's its there and where it came from.

Coun. Matthew Green says the bell is a unique piece of Hamilton history

The old city hall bell housed on top of the City Centre tower was originally given a new home in 1967 from the Hamilton Germania Club after being off display for many years. The club is now looking at ways to ensure people will know its there and where it came from. (Laura Clementson)

When Hamilton's Germania Club gave the city the gift of the foundation base for mounting the bell from Hamilton's former city hall to mark Canada's 100th birthday, the Toronto Maple Leafs had just been crowned Stanley Cup champions.

It's been a while.

Now, after 50 years, the club is looking to remind Hamiltonians about the bell that sits on top of the City Centre tower, and how they "rescued" it 1967, giving it a new home. 

You can see it from the corner of James Street North and Wilson Street. Get there and look up.

It's been there since 1989. Before that, the bell sat at Sam Lawrence Park on the Mountain after years of being off display in storage, according to Germania Club member Dietriche Eckert.

He says when the bell was at the park, there was a plaque to go with it, which he recently found in the club's archive. That sparked the idea to once again have the plaque and bell together.

"It would be nice if that could come about," said Eckert.

What transpired was the idea to place the plaque within a mural in an effort to let people know of its existence.

The bell can be seen at the corner of James Street and Wilson Street. It was moved there in 1989 after given to the city in 1967 to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday. (Laura Clementson)

Eckert says the mural would be inside the City Centre with images depicting Hamilton's history.

"What we intend to do, or maybe what will happen, is that when people go in and out of the mall, using that entrance… that they will walk past that mural, the proposed mural, and get a history of why the tower is there," said Eckert.

This doesn't do justice, says Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green.

"Having it inside a private mall does not excite me at all," said Green. "I would like to see it outside in public space, and I'd like to see it as something that passersby begin to recognize so people know to look up — in a safe and common sense way. I'm certainly not trying to distract drivers."

Green says a way-finding or vantage point outside of the mall needs to be established so people "stop and look." 

Ideally, Green would have loved for the bell to have been taken out and placed in a prominent place at city hall.

I think there's so much history in this city that is hidden.- Coun. Matthew Green 

He says due to logistics and timing, it wasn't possible for Canada 150.

Green says the bell is a unique piece of Hamilton history.

"I think there's so much history in this city that is hidden, and not just in our built environment, but in our stories and in our cultural communities. But I think we need to do a better job telling those stories," said Green.

The bell is definitely not as flashy or as noticeable as the sign that will sit in front of city hall, one that will garner lots of attention from "selfie" takers.

There's precedent in terms of these big milestones to be noted in a certain way.- Coun. Matthew Green

The new artwork was the topic of conversation when Green reminded city council of the gift from the Germania Club. That was a similar situation to the one the city faces with Hamilton businesses buying the sign, he said.

"I reminded them that 50 years ago the Germania Club did this for the 100-year anniversary. So there's precedent in terms of these big milestones to be noted in a certain way, by gifts from the community," said Green.  

Eckert says he's not concerned the new "Hamilton" sign will take away from the bell. The bell has been hanging for quite a while. His focus is preserving history.

Green says it's now a matter of negotiating the next steps with the ward councillor to find the next best solution. 


  • In the original story it was reported that the bell was gifted to the city from the Germania Club. It was the foundation base for the bell to sit at Sam Lawrence Park that was gifted to the city from the club in 1967, not the bell itself.
    Jul 18, 2017 9:31 AM ET