Category Archives: History

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.

SpecPostcards

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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The Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Veldhuis Project is moving forward

In partnership with the City of Hamilton, The Hamilton Conservation Authority is redeveloping a brownfield site along the Desjardins Canal into public green space.

The site is located at the old Veldhuis Greenhouse property that runs along the Desjardins Canal on King Street East in Dundas, just north of Cootes Drive. The area was once home to a greenhouse made famous for it’s variety and quantity of cacti.

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The Veldhuis Project will cost an estimated $3 million, with the funds going towards the redevelopment of the one-hectare property, as well as remediation of the canal.

The project is part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s plan to create the Dundas Eco-park, which will be a part of the Cootes to Escarpment Park System. The 1300-hectare urban park will provide the only continuous habitat connection from Lake Ontario to the Escarpment.

Designed by landscape architects G. O’Connor Consultants, the redeveloped brownfield site will consist of a meadow, both an asphalt and limestone pathway, boardwalk lookouts, a pavilion, restored woodlands, and public art.

The only remaining piece of the old greenhouse still intact is the two-storey red brick chimney.

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Due to Chimney Swifts, a protected at-risk species actively nesting in the chimney, it has been resolved that the chimney will remain as a site element. An eight-by-eight meter shaded structure that will resemble a greenhouse – a tribute to Veldhuis – will be situated along the asphalt walkway and within view of the chimney.

Development concept courtesy of The Hamilton Conservation Authority

Concept courtesy of The Hamilton Conservation Authority

The green space will also feature a pedestrian boardwalk against the edge of the canal, complete with a fabric sail-style shade structure, interpretive signage, and ‘industrial’ bench seating. The boardwalk’s design is an attempt to bring the canal’s rich history back to the site for those who walk the pathways and canoe the canal.

Concept courtesy of The Hamilton Conservation Authority

Concept courtesy of The Hamilton Conservation Authority

Along with the remediation of the Desjardins Canal, floating islands for nesting waterfowl will be implemented, as well as restored riparian edges and an enhanced riparian outlet.

On King Street, the two-meter wide municipal sidewalk will be extended and a new crosswalk with painted markings will be added to connect the Veldhuis green space with Martino Park to the north.

One of the remaining challenges facing this redevelopment is the proposal to close King Street at Olympic Drive. The plan is to remove the existing road to create a turtle nesting area, extend the pathway, and add an additional boardwalk.

Work on the Veldhuis Project is set to begin later this summer.

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The Royal Connaught is getting a second life

Remember Harry Stinson’s proposed 100-storey spire for the Royal Connaught? Thankfully, Valery Homes and Spallecci Group have a better idea.

The 100-storey spire

Harry Stinson’s proposed 100-storey spire for the Royal Connaught

In partnership with KNY Architects, these developers plan to construct a residential building that pays homage to the Royal Connaught’s rich history, while retrofitting it with a new look.

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The plan is to revitalize and incorporate the existing Connaught, and add three new towers. These three towers will be superimposed beside, as well as behind the Connaught, to surround the existing building. The new towers will be 36, 33, and 24 storeys, with 700 units in total.

Artist renderings show the new, more contemporary-looking towers consisting of a smoky grey glazed glass that rises up the entire height of the towers. Historical elements incorporated into the new towers, like the Connaught’s large overhanging cornice and signature red brick, will accent the juxtaposing modern additions.

The new development will fill all but a corner of the block that surrounds Main and King, between John and Catherine. Access to parking for the complex will be via Catherine Street and will include two underground levels and seven above.

A seven-storey podium will also be added, that is meant to compliment the Connaught and connect the additional towers. The podium will have an accessible rooftop balcony on the eighth floor that will offer several amenities for residents of the towers. Some of the amenities listed include a theatre, fitness center, party room, and a terrace complete with cabanas and fire-pits. At ground level, the podium will offer 13 000 square feet for commercial space along King Street, Catherine Street, and Main Street.

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The Royal Connaught itself will be going through some major changes. The upper floors will be reconstructed to include the eighth-floor connection to the additional three towers. The southern end of the building, a three-storey addition that contains the Grand Ball Room, will be demolished to accommodate the new towers. The Edwardian façade, with its red brick, limestone, and large arcade-style windows will remain largely untouched. Once finished, the 13-storey Connaught will consist of 135 units.

Built by Harry Frost in 1914, the Royal Connaught hotel has changed hands several times through its lifetime. It has also played host to some of the most notable visitors to ever come to Hamilton, including Pierre Trudeau and Al Capone.

Residences are said to start at around $100,000. For more information visit: www.royalconnaught.com

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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.

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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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