Atkinson Clock Tower - Beacon of city under threat due to developments
The two-faced clock tower was undisturbed for over a century after a grieving Mary Edith Atkinson erected it in memory of her son Francis George, the first district officer of Gaya Bay (KK town area) who died at the age of 28 of ‘Borneo Fever’ in 1902.
The tower which was built without a single nail, was completed in April 1905.
It was initially lit and served as a beacon for ships coming into Sabah up till the 1950s.
But, development of high-rise buildings have slowly obscured the clock tower which is one of two colonial structures surviving today. (The other is the old post office now converted as the Sabah Tourism Board headquarters).
The 50-foot tall structure survived a barrage of aerial bombings during World War II with only minimal damage sustained to the clock from machine gun fire.
The clock got its second face during a facelift to mark Jesselton’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1959 and continued to tick away with little concern about its future close to the heart of Kota Kinabalu’s central business district.
The chimes have long stopped, but over the past few weeks: the Atkinson Clock tower has been caught in the centre of an emotional debate between heritage conservationists and proponents of a 16-storey building at an adjacent site.
Fears of the tower being dwarfed by a major commercial development triggered calls by conservationists like Heritage Sabah headed by architect Richard Nelson Sokial who questioned the city’s obsession to allow more high-rise buildings in an area that sits along the historic Padang Merdeka.
“This is not the way to respect the last remaining iconic historical landmark of the capital city, it is dishonouring it,” said Sokial.
His comments appeared in blogs before quickly snowballing into a passionate call by Kkites to stop the development adjacent to the tower.
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