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The Peace Tower

Johanna Mizgala, Curator, Curatorial Services

June 2017

Centre Block before construction of the Peace Tower, 1919.
Centre Block before construction of the Peace Tower, 1919.

July 1, 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of the inauguration of the Peace Tower. This neo-gothic structure stands 91 metres high and was the crowning achievement of architect John Andrew Pearson's reconstruction of the Parliament Building (1916-1927).

The Peace Tower is a campanile—a freestanding bell tower—connected to the Centre Block by a covered entryway. It houses a 53-bell carillon, dedicated in remembrance of the sacrifice and service of Canadians in the First World War. Inside the Peace Tower is the Memorial Chamber, a space dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives in service to Canada.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Mackenzie King shortly before the opening of the Tower, Pearson writes about how the tower would look as visitors approach Parliament Hill:

In all my thoughts of the tower, peace was dominant. I believe there is a quiet peaceful dignity about it. I somehow bring myself to read it that way—no matter what troubles and worries and differences of opinion take place in the building. I feel that one cannot approach the building up the centre road without experiencing its mute appeal for toleration, moderation, dignity and peace.
Centre Block, c. 1935.
Centre Block, c. 1935.

The inauguration of the Peace Tower and its Carillon took place on July 1, 1927, the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. This major event attracted thousands of spectators to Parliament Hill and was marked by the first national and international radio broadcast in Canada. The broadcast featured speeches by the Governor General and Prime Minister, along with a musical performance by Percival Price, the first Dominion Carillonneur.

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