Category Archives: History

Song: Wonderful Hamilton

Have a listen to this 1960’s promotional song titled “Wonderful Hamilton”.

The song was made for CKOC (Oldies 1150) and it mentions many of Hamilton’s attractions, destinations, and institutions.

Catchy, isn’t it?!

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February 26, 2013 · 10:54 am

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.


Filed under Architecture, Development, Economy, Heritage, History

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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Filed under Development, Economy, Heritage, History

The Final Labour Day Classic

Canada’s National Anthem being performed before the last Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Even though the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a shocking fourth quarter comeback, the final Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium was a game to remember not only for it’s dramatic ending, but also from the overall Labour Day experience that’s never failed to disappoint.

The Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium is known around the league as one of the most intense, important, and hotly contested games of the regular season. Toronto Argonaut players hate it, Hamilton Tiger-Cat players love it, and just about everyone in Hamilton wants to be there for it.

Scott Park, which is located across the street from the south side of the stadium, was over-capacity with tailgaters consuming their fair share of alcohol and sausages hours before kick off. The atmosphere surrounding the stadium before the game was almost celebratory, with a cheerful crowd passing the turnstiles, ready to absorb every second of a famous last game.

Ivor Wynne Stadium is a relic; a stadium of times past; a reminder of better days in The Hammer, when jobs were in abundance and industry was booming. Previously named Civic Stadium, it’s inception was in 1928, ages before modern monolithic, boring stadiums. With wood seating, pillars blocking fans views in some sections of the south side, and no variety of concessions, it’s easy to see why management is so eager to see a new stadium erected in it’s place. Most Tiger-Cat fans, however, would disagree.

The stadium is sandwiched between Melrose and Balsam Avenue in East Hamilton, where many would call the “heart” of the city. Parking is scarce, so often you find yourself parking on the driveways and lawns of residents (thankfully, my grandfather lives a block away and always saves a spot on his front lawn for me) within the areas surrounding the stadium. If you’re taking the HSR, you get a free shuttle ride upon brandishing your ticket as the city increases the transit schedule for the additional ridership the game brings.

In an unexpected twist, the halftime show was the Syracuse University Orangemen marching band. They were seated in section 21 during the game (directly behind where I was seated – awesome!) and were a great boost to the home fans, performing Hamilton chants and classic marching band songs in-between plays. Needless to say, they overshadowed the traveling Toronto Argonauts band, “The Argonotes”.

A perfect day was only mildly disrupted by a tough loss. But one thing is for certain, it’s going to be a very sad day when this stadium is torn down. Many memories were made here, over several generations. It will be interesting to see how the new stadium will turn out, however. Will they change the stands from North-South to East-West? Is there going to be more than just beer and hot dogs? And will the citizens of this passionate city accept their new mecca?

Bring on 2015 and the new Labour Day traditions that will follow. Us Tiger Cat fans are hungry for more.

Oskee Wee Wee.

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Filed under History, Opinion, Sports

Hamilton remembers on Remembrance Day

The 93rd Annual Remembrance Day Memorial Service took place at the Gore Park Cenotaph in honour of soldiers past and present.

The ceremony started at 10:45 a.m. with a Parade of Attention welcome by John Clarke, Chairman of the Hamilton Veterans Committee.

Mayor Bob Bratina then took to the podium to welcome everyone. In his address, he said that Remembrance Day is “more than just about World War Two,” it’s about everyone who has served or is serving our country.

“I know over 285 names from one unit and I’ve never forgot them,” said Ron Cosby, a Vietnam war veteran who says many Canadians fought in Vietnam. “A lot of people don’t realize [that Canadians served in Vietnam]… I served with the 101st Airborne Division.”

“I’ve lost friends and had buddies messed up in Afghanistan,” said Corporal Steve Wright, who is still serving with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. He said he’s attending to remember everyone who courageously fought for us.

After Mayor Bratina’s words, “O Canada” officially opened the ceremony. Played by the Dundas Concert Band, it was boisterously sung – echoing off the downtown buildings in a great display of patriotism. Later, the war veterans of different ages laid wreaths in what was an emotional moment.

Following the wreath-laying, “In Flanders Fields” was quietly recited by those attending. The two minutes silence that preceded John McCrae’s timeless poem were undisturbed except for the church bells mournfully ringing around the Cenotaph.

“Six church bells throughout the city rang during the two moments silence,” said Mayor Bratina during the closing remarks about the new addition to the ceremony. The six memorial bells were from churches throughout the downtown.

As the service came to an end a Lancaster Bomber from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum thunderously flew over the city as a reminder of our freedom.

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