Category Archives: Heritage

Dundas’ Carnegie Gallery in the midst of a revitalization

Carnegie Gallery on King Street W and Ogilvie Street, Dundas

Carnegie Gallery on King Street W and Ogilvie Street, Dundas

One of the most beloved heritage buildings in Dundas is getting both a facelift and a new addition.

Carnegie Gallery is in the midst of a revitalization project by Dundas-based architects Perkins + Will. The changes being made to the gallery include street level accessibility, a wheelchair accessible washroom, a visitor operable elevator, and some extra gallery wall space, among others.

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The street level accessibility will be on Ogilvie Street, via the new addition. This addition will be an atrium, which is superimposed against the southern side of the building. The atrium will feature large floor-to-ceiling windows facing the street and a brick accent that should fit seamlessly with the building’s existing exterior.

The building is a neoclassical (or beaux arts) design, with its tall staircase, portico, doric columns, and half columns.

Originally Carnegie Library, the building first opened its doors on December 8th, 1910. The city was one of 111 cities in Ontario (125 in Canada) to receive a grant of $12 000 USD from the Carnegie Foundation. Pittsburgh steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie created the foundation to promote education. In order to qualify for the grant, a municipality had to be able to provide library maintenance by raising an annual amount of one-tenth the grant, from taxes.

The library stayed open until 1970, when a new municipal library was erected further south on Ogilvie Street. The space was converted into a children’s library that lasted only ten years, after which, it was then leased to the Dundas Art and Craft Association.

Heritage Plaque on the side of Carnegie Gallery

Heritage Plaque on the side of Carnegie Gallery

In 1980, Carnegie Library was designated as a heritage building and was converted into Carnegie Gallery in 1981. The building was later purchased by the City of Hamilton in 2006.

Carnegie Gallery currently exhibits bodies of work by local artists and contains a gallery shop that sells art and other goods.

The Province of Ontario has provided the Dundas Arts Community Foundation with a 1.2 million dollar grant for the Carnegie Library Revitalization project.

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Part One: A “Portrait of a City” then and now

Over the last 67 years much has changed in Hamilton. In the 1946 promotional video “Portrait of a City” there is a lot to compare between Hamilton’s past and present. Here, in this three part series, is a timeline breakdown of the video:

1:47 — Dundurn Castle is one of Hamilton’s most visited and notable sites. It was home to Sir Allan MacNab – one of Canada’s first Premiers. Before the castle was erected, the British used the site as a military post during the War of 1812. Later, when English architect Robert Wetherall was designing the building, MacNab had him incorporate some of the military post into the overall design. The castle was constructed between 1832 and 1835.

3:14 — Did you notice the streetcar on King Street? Believe it or not, Hamilton used to have streetcars (hence, the term “Hamilton Street Railway”). They were in use until 1951, when changes to the city’s transportation infrastructure began and streets were being converted from two-way to one-way. Over 60 years later, with a big push from former Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the support of the Provincial Government, LRT talks were back on the table in Hamilton (although these talks have since stalled).

3:30 — Hamilton still has a prime geographical location in the centre of the Golden Horseshoe. Here is a current list of cities and their proximity to Hamilton, via Hamilton Economic Development.

4:46 — Liuna Station, located on James St. North, is a train station turned banquet hall that was designed by Canadian National Railway architect John Scholfield. Built between 1929 and 1930, the station is of a neo-classical architectural design. The southern façade, a beautiful feature of the building, has a deep portico, with Doric columns that pay homage to Parthenon. Liuna Station was in service until 1993 and sat abandoned until 2000, when it was renovated and converted into a beautiful banquet hall that hosts some of the most distinguished balls and benefits in the city – a great example of heritage preservation.

5:19 — Hamilton’s port lands are slowly receding into recreational waterfront – which is important for the future development of Hamilton – due to the city’s shrinking industrial economy. However, there is still plenty of activity in the bay. For example, the ongoing remediation plan for Randle Reef, which proposes more commercial space, as well as some pedestrian-friendly amenities.

Stay tuned for the second instalment…

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February 25, 2013 · 1:43 pm

Changes coming to Gore Park

Call it the end of an era, a new chapter, or a failure. No matter what you call it, change is coming to Gore Park.

As of January 9th, developer Wilson Blanchard was cleared by City Council for the demolition of 18-28 King Street East – a series of four row houses on the south side of Gore Park – to make room for a mixed-use condominium development. However, after community opposition, Blanchard has decided to withdraw his application to demolish all but two of the buildings. But was this a fair compromise?

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These four Victorian-era row houses were erected between 1840 and 1875. Renowned architect William Thomas (famous for St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto) designed the three-storey buildings, 18 and 22 King Street (which Blanchard plans to keep). The buildings facades, with intricately designed cornices and arcade-style windows, are still intact.

All four historical buildings, however, should have been designated as heritage buildings by Heritage Canada, which would prevent them from being demolished.

The City of Hamilton’s Heritage Committee’s track record for preserving buildings is far from flattering. In 2006, the Province had to step in and save the Lister Block after it was slated for demolition. If it weren’t for community outcry, all four buildings – instead of two – would currently be under the wrecking ball.

These row houses, sometimes referred to as “streetwalls”, are integral to the streetscape of Gore Park – the city’s Civic Square.

The rows of these attached structures simulate continuity, essentially enclosing the square, therefore defining the space for the activities Gore Park can host. Like the Gore Park Master Plan – a pedestrian-friendly plaza closed off from traffic.

However, the outcome isn’t all that bad. Artist renderings released by the developer reveal the infill of buildings at a three-storey height beside what would be the two remaining buildings, as well as taller mixed-use buildings superimposed into the adjacent parking lot that sits idle.

Another positive outcome from this compromise is the active role the community played in shaping their city’s future development. This role is an important element in achieving a sustainable city.

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To be or not to be? That is the question for Tivoli Theatre

The Tivoli Theatre could be the latest piece to the James Street North revitalization puzzle, after rumours of a possible buyer for the dormant theatre have surfaced.

Belma Diamante, CEO of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble, bought the theatre for just one dollar in 2004 (when the theatre was already closed) from the Sniderman family – after a wall collapsed on the south side of the building – and the theatre has been closed ever since.

Earlier this week, Diamante has revealed that there is a serious buyer but she has not disclosed who it is.

Tivoli Theatre, Circa 1947 (Photo Courtesy: Archive of Ontario)

Built in stages from 1875 to 1924, the Tivoli Theatre was originally a carriage factory and in 1924 it became a vaudeville venue and movie house. Later, in 1995 it became a venue for live stage until it was closed in 2004.

After the theatre was closed, the city spent over $300,000 to demolish much of the front of the building, including the façade. There have also been some contributions in the form of grants for building stabilization and heating improvements.

“The old auditorium has been empty for a number of years” said Mark Wilson, a member of the Head-of-the-Lake Historical Society who wrote about the history of Tivoli Theatre in the book Vanished Hamilton IV. “To revamp it, it’s going to be huge, huge money.”

Jason Farr, Ward 2 Councilor, says that a renovated Tivoli would further help with the James Street revival and there are numerous grants for which the potential buyer could apply.

“Whomever the purchaser is, if they’re not aware, there is a number of incentives for them,” said Farr.

The buyer could apply for CIT (Communities In Transition) grants, as well as heritage grants (the theatre is on the “Top Ten Most Endangered” list on Heritage Canada’s website).

“Whether it’s live music, or stage venues, or Die Hard, I have some very fond memories [in Tivoli Theatre] and I think a lot of Hamiltonians do too and to hear that there’s some progressive movements afoot is music to my ears,” said Farr.

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Sounding Off: Mirvish+Gehry. Does Toronto really need a Bilbao effect?

On Monday, David Mirvish and Frank Gehry presented their new vision for Toronto’s Entertainment District, Mirvish+Gehry – a complex consisting of three 85-storey condominiums, an art gallery, six floors of retail space, and a new Ontario College of Art and Design building.  If approved by City Council, the new development is bound to be a world famous complex, but is it what Toronto needs?


The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

“The Bilbao Effect” is a term used by architect Witold Rybczynski – named after Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain – to define a work of architecture that puts a city on the proverbial map. Toronto isn’t like Bilbao, however, or even Los Angeles, where Gehry’s other piece of monolithic architecture – Walt Disney Theatre – stands out.

The city already has the CN Tower, the six Toronto-Dominion Centre buildings (which single-handedly modernized the Toronto Skyline in 1967), the SkyDome (also known as Rogers Centre), One King West, the recently completed Trump tower, and countless other iconic buildings with character that adorn the sky.

The Entertainment District is growing at an exponential rate, so why stymie its progress by another blockbuster development? Many prominent architects and urban planners believe that cities develop best organically and a project this large could very easily create not only visual, but also physical borders in an area that thrives off walkability.

Sure, the architecture will be brilliant, with one of the most revered architects in the world, Frank Gehry, designing super-structures for his hometown. There will also be a new 25,000 square foot OCAD building called “The Public Learning Centre for Visual Art, Cultural Studies and Art History” that will be the University’s first satellite campus, but it appears this project is more about egos than people.

For example, another piece of the mega project is a 60,000 square foot art gallery that will exhibit David Mirvish’s personal collection. However, in order for the art gallery to be constructed they will have to tear down Princess of Wales Theatre.

Although the theatre is only 19-years-old, it has become a landmark on King Street and tearing a theatre down to create a personal exhibit has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Torontonians.

There’s no doubt that the Mirvish-Gehry development would bring in plenty of tax revenue for Toronto through condo fees and retail space. However, it’s something that is far too grandiose for the area and even Toronto, in general.

After All, King Street is now the hub of the Toronto International Film Festival, wouldn’t it make sense to focus on the stars of the festival and not the surrounding buildings?

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Citizens voice little concern over proposed amendments

A public meeting was held on September 19th at City Hall for amendments to The Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Plan and Project with citizens approval.

The changes were proposed by Alan Waterfield and Hazel Milsome, of the Urban Renewal committee. What they proposed were amendments for many businesses and communities within Hamilton and the amalgamated areas.

Citizens and business owners who attended voiced few concerns over the proposed amendments.

The changes aim to rehabilitate and revitalize land and buildings within targeted areas of the city. The plan provides greater initiatives for small businesses, heritage buildings and potential business investments.

Waterfield says the committee does not expect approval from city council until early 2012.

The program is currently working with a 20 million dollar budget and is hoping to see the budget expand to 40 million. Milsome said this will not be an issue.

“The idea behind our proposals is to bring in more tax revenue,” said Milsome, with optimism that changes to the program will succeed.

The committee plans to expand the downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) zone, covering areas further outside the core of the city. Six current incentive programs could be modified.

Amendments include loan extensions to heritage buildings, extended deadlines for property improvement loans, more lenient requirements for loan spending on commercial developments, and grants for facade face-lifts of up to $25,000 on new businesses.

The facade upgrades will help give the downtown a facelift, boost property value,  and entice businesses to move into active Business Initiative Areas of Hamilton says Waterfield.

The amendments are just in the first phase of the approval process and Waterfield says there is “always room for improvement”.

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