Category Archives: Heritage

Hamilton Rising: A recap of the National Trust Conference

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This year’s National Trust Conference “Heritage Rising” took place in Hamilton, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

This city is no longer sitting in the shadows of its big brother to the east, Toronto. It’s on the map. It’s been discovered. It’s our time to shine. And shine it did. This year’s conference had the highest attendance yet and has been hailed as a huge success.

The conference was full of insightful workshops, tours, and talks. There was never a dull moment. It was quite surprising how inspiring, engaging, and informative the conference was.

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I was lucky enough to be asked to lead a tour on Urban Renewal in the core. It was a sold out tour that had me nervous from the start, but it went swimmingly. Swimmingly being the optimal word, as it was a rainy, windy Thursday morning when my tour took place.

Over 25 attended my tour. It was an eclectic mix of professionals. There were historians, urban planners, architects, and journalists, just to name a few of those who tagged along.

I started the tour at City Hall and discussed the history of the 43 KM conversion of one-way streets and the detrimental impact it has had on our core, the history and architecture of our modern City Hall, and the sad demolition of our Board of Education building.

We then went to Commonwealth Square. There I talked about Murray V. Jones’ Civic Plan, the razing of our city fabric, and what came about from the original plan. Hamilton Place, the AGH, Convention Centre and Ellen Fairclough building all had their honourable mentions.

Next was the rooftop of Jackson Square. I discussed the phases, the buildings, and the failures of our urban mall. We even managed to walk through the mall, the farmers market, and King William.

An engaging discussion on King William took place. After seeing Templar Flats, we talked about density, height, and the future of development in a city that’s still plagued with far too many parking lots.

On Friday, I attended a Spark Session called “Historic Districts” moderated by Lloyd Alter. The idea behind the spark session is similar to PechaKucha, except each speaker was only given seven minutes.

The break down of the eight speakers who presented and their topics are as follows:

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  • Maggie Holm, a Heritage Planner for the Halifax Regional Municipality, presented on the Barrington Street Heritage Conservation District. She discussed adaptive reuse projects, preservation projects, and what needs to be done to rejuvenate a historic street.
  • Amber Polywkan, MA, Heritage Conservation, Canada Studies, Carleton University, discussed her consultation work with Heritage Canada when it comes to Historic Districts and the people within them. The two case studies were Nakusp, B.C. and Carlton Place, ON. She talked about consultations with residents of each town and what their priorities were when it comes to reviving their Main Streets.

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  • Suneeta Millington, Chair of Prime Ministers’ Row, Ottawa. Suneeta brought up the dangers of historic neighbourhoods that aren’t heritage protected and what happens when taller buildings take their place. Dead buildings, they say. Buildings that are worth more dead than they are alive. It’s a cautionary tale where we need to create plans for our own neighbourhoods as preemptive measures to combat this growing issue.
  • Helen Cain, Heritage Planner, City of Richmond, BC. Helen’s talk was about a small town outside of Richmond called Burkeville, which is starting to feel the effects of BC’s competitive housing market. It is a small town of just over 300 houses that were all completed in the 1940’s when the city was built for Boeing. Now they need to find ways to save this quaint town and keep the charm before it’s too late. Houses are selling at a fast rate. Some are being demolished, while others are receiving terrible makeovers. It’s a tale we can relate to when it comes to our hot real estate market. Protect what we have.
  • Sarah King Head, Historian, Thorold, ON. Sarah’s topic was about the Beaverdams and the consideration of the Anthropogenic Biome. Mapping history. Considering our environment. Two things Hamilton needs to strive for. Niagara Green Belt surrounds our city, so we need to save our habitat and map our natural histories.

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  • Nicole Nomsa Moyo, Master of Architecture, Carleton University. Nicole discussed the challenges and opportunities in Southern African Townships and Canadian First Nations Reserves. She drew similarities between the two, which are actually strikingly close (besides population). Nicole also presented interesting design schemes for villages so they would meet international standards of living. You can see more at nnmoyo.com
  • Katie Brightwell, Heritage Catographer, ARA Ltd, Kitchener, ON. Katie showed us a new approach to publishing Heritage Information through interactive online mapping. This approach would help preserve what we have and also make information more publically accessible for those trying to seek it.

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  • John Terpstra, Writer and Cabinetmaker, Hamilton, ON. John took us on a journey of Chedoke Creek. He traced the path from the start of the creek to the mountain, passing through highways and tunnels. When he reached the mountain, he saw the creek was buried. He traced the path, only to realize it runs through neighbourhoods that are illegally using the creek for dumping.

The next interesting adventure was a tour or “Field Session” of our City Hall led by Architect Paul Sapounzi. Paul is a Partner of +VG Architects in Brantford and +VG were in charge of the heritage restoration aspects of the renovations at City Hall.

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He gave us a step-by-step break down on all the work they assisted with. Including why they decided to go with concrete cladding instead of the original Cherokee marble, or limestone. He also told us about the meticulous process of replacing the entire Italian tile throughout the building through an intense cataloguing process.

We heard of the new design makeovers the masterful building received, and even the small things they did, like bathroom designs that were meant to match the period of City Hall.

It was amazing how intense the whole process was. No wonder the renovations felt like they took ages. Because they did. And it had to be that way in order for our beautiful City Hall to continue to stand out as one of our best heritage assets.

On the Saturday, I attended one of the last talks of the conference. It was moderated by Chris Wiebe, the Conference Coordinator of The National Trust (who did an incredible job), and was on Heritage as a Creative Force.

The speakers were decidedly different from those featured earlier in the conference. They came from artistic backgrounds, but all had some very interesting things to say. Each topic was about using spaces that can inspire and transform heritage buildings. Hopefully saving them in the process.

Clyden Wagner (Executive Producer of Luminato Festival) talked about the transformation of the Hearn Generating Station into a temporary arts centre. It became an interactive hub that had the whole city buzzing with all the impressive shows, theatre, and art installations it produced. It’s nice to see we have our own similar idea here in Hamilton with the Hamilton Flea.

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Jennifer and Leonard Farlinger (New Real Films) are founders of a production company in Toronto. In a movie they produced called “Born To Be Blue”, a movie on Chet Baker, they transformed Sudbury into both New York and LA. It was amazing to see how they used vacant spaces in a Northern City to mimic lively spaces in big American cities.

And lastly, Bob Doidge and Amy King gave a passionate talk about their beloved Grant Avenue Studio. A studio near and dear to our city. One that needed saving recently, as it is a 102-year-old Edwardian house and in need of repairs, desperately.

This was a just a few of the highlights of an incredibly informative conference. There was so much to learn. Each room was packed with bright minds from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Many who came and saw Hamilton for their first time.

We can learn a lot form this conference. Hopefully City Hall was listening, because they need to listen. We need to listen and learn. We need to focus on our heritage, our building stock, and our communities. It’s our time to shine, Hamilton. Let’s keep moving forward in an inclusive, thoughtful manner.

Councillors, I hope you’re paying attention.

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Architectural Spotlight: The New Royal Connaught Lobby

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With a mixture of both neo-classical and contemporary design, the double-height lobby at The Royal Connaught has been brought back to its former glory and then some.Image
Surrounded by six, two-storey corinthian columns, the sheer size and pure white paint not only makes the columns pop, but also help define the space of the lobby. ImageImage
The ceiling is coffered with an intricate crown molding and three elegant glass raindrop chandeliers, while the floor features a combination of restored original marble and terrazzo tiles.Image ImageImage
A grand staircase leads up to an impressive mezzanine, where the details in the foliage of the column’s capitals, and the lobby’s frieze design can be examined up close. The mezzanine also offers a great view of the space and the four large arched windows that look out onto King Street.Image
The restored lobby will undoubtedly be great to not only host events, but also greet residents and visitors alike into Hamilton’s illustrious past and it’s ambitious future.

For more on the Royal Connaught: https://rebuildhamilton.com/2013/04/02/the-royal-connaught-is-getting-a-second-life/

 

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City Hall: Worth A Second Glance

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Photo Credit: Sarah Janes Photography

Designed by Stanley Roscoe in the International Style, Hamilton’s City Hall has lived an exciting life. Completed in 1960, the building has, over time, become a definitive piece of architecture in the city. With an emphasis on volume, glass, and space, City Hall is a spearhead structure for modernism in Hamilton.

Situated on Main Street, a one-way arterial road, the building has never received the attention it’s deserved. Much of architecture depends on how it is approached, and City Hall has an unfavourable location when it comes to this concept. Most people just drive right by it, usually too focused on trying to make that next green light.

Walk the grounds of this building and it’s easy to see what’s so alluring about it. The glass curtain wall on the northern façade of the eight-storey office building gleams in the sunshine, offering a feeling of assurance. The East and West sides – once clad in Georgian marble – are composed of white pre-cast concrete and adorned with austere clocks.

The podium it sits on includes a wall frieze of Italian glass tiles that not only gives the building a touch of panache, but a motif that runs right into the interior of the building. While the Council Chambers cantilevers over the forecourt, offering the ever-allusive promise of transparency within it’s geometrically domed roof.

Enter the building and see a style that would make most civic buildings green with envy. Terrazzo floors, wood accents, and a brushed aluminum double staircase greet visitors upon entry. The interplay between solid and space is clean and sleek, almost poetic.

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Symmetrical, light, and functional, the building has a worldliness that is vacant amongst most of the city’s building stock. Though City Hall still has its faults (not just in council). The building represents a modern urbanism that is anti-grid, draining Main Street of congestion, with it’s large forecourt, parking lot, and green space. The layout is something right out of Le Corbusier’s manuscript.

In 2005 City Council designated City Hall as a heritage building, with good reason. This underrated, underpublicized piece of civic architecture is a cornerstone building in our ambitious city.

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Heritage Spotlight: Landed Banking and Loan Company Building

At the corner of Main and James sits a bite of The Big Apple. The Landed Banking and Loan Company Building, designed by Charles Mills, is a direct descendent of New York City’s Knickerbocker Trust and Safe Deposit Bank building.

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Finished in 1908, The Landed Banking and Loan Company building is the oldest remaining bank building in Hamilton.  Although it’s inspired by another building, the old bank has it’s own unique features. Between the floors a wall panel makes the pilasters less prominent, but it’s presence is just as commanding. The exterior is composed of Indiana limestone and also consists of large-scale entablature, and a balustrade.

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Located at Fifth Ave and 34th street in New York City, the Knickerbocker Trust and Safe Deposit Bank building was designed in the Beaux-Art tradition by the firm of McKim, Mead and White. Completed in 1903, the three-storey Classic Revival bank consisted of a Vermont marble exterior, colossal Doric columns, pilasters, and traditional Corinthian orders. The transition between the facades demonstrated responsiveness to context, while the entablature and balustrade added a masterful touch.

From left to right: The Knickerbocker Trust Company in 1904; the 1921 addition; and how it looks today

From left to right: The Knickerbocker Trust Company in 1904; the 1921 addition; and how it looks today

When first commissioned, the Knickerbocker Trust and Safe Deposit Bank building was meant to be 13 stories. However, the solution to super-impose an additional 9-storey element didn’t come to fruition until 1921 when ten stories were added. The building was redesigned in 1958 and is now unrecognizable.

In 1986 the Landed Banking and Loan Company Building was granted heritage status. There have been minor repairs to the building, including the removal of a night safe deposit box on the west elevation. With the Canadian flag flying high, the building is one of the city’s most treasured pieces of built heritage.

Hamilton 1, New York 0

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Blast from the Past: January

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Great Falls (also known as Grindstone Falls) is located on the Grindstone Creek just off Mill Street, in Waterdown.

Until 1912, Grindstone Creek was used as a source of power for a sawmill at the base of Great Falls. The waterfall flows year round and a viewing platform has since been built, as well as a parking lot for visitors.

According to the City of Waterfalls website, Great Falls is one of the several Hamilton area waterfalls to be featured regularly in postcards.

Great Falls is also accessible via the Bruce Trail.

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Blast from the Past: a history of Hamilton through vintage post cards

You never know what you’ll find at the Freelton Antique Mall. For example, this unique 1975 Hamilton Spectator post card calendar.

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Throughout the following weeks, Rebuild Hamilton will post a different month (in succession) of this vintage calendar. Each post will contain some information about the post card picture for that month.

Enjoy!

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An alternative design and development plan for Gore Park buildings

Local developer and designer Mahesh Butani has prepared a compromise development proposal for the Blanchard Block at Gore Park that would not only save the historic Gore Park buildings, but also integrate new development.

Butani has expressed fear that tearing down the historic Gore Park buildings would be damaging to the city’s core. Although there is a possibility the Gore Park streetwall will be designated as heritage buildings, this new plan would achieve the integration of the existing buildings in a sensitive manner with large-scale development.

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The proposal suggests a phased plan with three stages. The first stage is to develop an 80-room boutique hotel superimposed on top of the Gore Park row of heritage buildings in a receding form. The receding levels open up the sightline for 50% of the units in phases two and three, while also providing Gore Park with low shadow cover from the buildings.

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The hotel would include a terrace restaurant, café and bar overlooking the park. There will be over 40 “Bed and Breakfast” rooms inside the pre-existing buildings and six retail storefronts.

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Stage two incorporates an 18-floor mixed-use condominium with 108 units on the adjacent lot facing James Street South, which is currently vacant.

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The final stage would be a 40-floor high-rise condominium with more than 400 units. The condo would be situated on another vacant lot facing Main Street. All three phases would be integrated with the boutique hotel and terrace café overlooking Gore Park.

According to Butani, building the development in phases would give a realistic flow to the financing and asset collateralization, giving lenders a greater assurance against the risk of default. It would also help control supply and demand, ensuring that more sales go to actual users, adding density to the core.

The total development value of this proposal totals 150-million dollars.

Note: these renderings are not finished. They will be released in a few weeks with materials, textures etc. However, due to the immediate possibility of demolition, Butani decided to release various views of the unfinished rendering.

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