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Heritage Spotlight: Victoria Hall

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Victoria Hall
William Stewart/Tran Dieu Associates
66 King St E
Completed: 1888/2008

It’s enamel white; it’s delightfully detailed; it’s in Gore Park, and it’s a National Historic Site. It’s the Victoria Hall building designed by Hamilton architect William Stewart.

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Completed in 1888 for Hamilton Lawyer Alexander Bruce, this three-and-a-half storey building sits wedged between the large Dominion Bank Building and the six-storey terracotta A.B. MacKay building.

The façade is composed of galvanized sheet metal, giving the appearance of a rich painted stone texture, but without the expense. The sheet metal is sculpted by hand in Italianate detail.

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Above the storefront, three-bay windows are surrounded by elongated columns spiraling towards the sky with decorative corbels clinging at the pointed tops as if they were the wings of a butterfly. Flanked by marshmallow-like rusticated pilasters, the high relief details draw the eyes up in a true tripartite fashion.

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The top half-story has short arched windows complimented with ball shaped voussoirs and large keystones. Capping the building is a large overhanging cornice shaped with bulbous corbel brackets and a simple frieze.

Victoria hall was designated as a National Historic Site in 1995 for a number of reasons. It’s a rare High Victorian commercial building amongst the rest of Gore Park’s building stock and Victoria Hall is also one of the earliest remaining sheet metal facades still intact to grace the skies of Canada.

The building was purchased in 2005 and the Toronto engineering firm of Tran Dieu & Associates converted the upper stories into two large residential units. Both units were occupied after the renovations, which were completed in late 2008.

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Design Spotlight: The North End Free Library

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The North End Free Library
Thier + Curran Architects Inc.
56 Macaulay St W
Completed: July 2015

Sometimes all you need is a bench and a book. Mixed with the right setting and it can be a fairytale of imagination, inspiration, and conversation. In this case, Thier + Curran Architects wrote the perfect story.

With a bench on a steel frame and a box full of books, the recently completed North End Free Library is a little community oasis on a quiet street.

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The raw steel frame is exposed with all the marks and traces of its construction. Perched atop the L-shaped boxlike frame is an ipe slat bench for the passerby to stop and read, or converse with neighbours.

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A cedar library box hangs down against the frame like a light. With a decorative resin window and self-closing hinges, the little library comfortably holds an adequate amount of books in a sealed space. It’s like finding a cupboard of educational treasures.

Designed and financed by Thier + Curran Architects, the library presides on the Scime/Curran Residence, an adaptive re-use project by TCA.

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Each book even comes with a custom stamp designed by the firm. Take a book, or leave a book.

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A Special Event: Hamilton Flea at Treble Hall

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On July 11th a very special event is happening at one of Hamilton’s most cherished heritage buildings.

Hamilton Flea, hosted by Girl On The Wing and The Academy Of All Things Awesome, is a one-day event featuring vendors from far and wide inside Treble Hall.

Located at 8 John Street North, Treble Hall is a Renaissance Revival Style building designed by renowned Hamilton architect James Balfour. Other historic buildings designed by Balfour include old City Hall, Tuckett Mansion, and The Balfour House.

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Completed in 1879, the four-storey building is delightfully detailed. The storefronts feature pilasters and columns with Corinthian capitals. A number of the storefront windows even feature leaded transoms. Above, the 18 windows are adorned with window surrounds, accented with pediments on the second floor.

Two stars are located on the second floor, between a central window, to indicate “The Secret Door” to the floors above.

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Dormer windows punctuate the roofline overlooking John Street and the cornice below is lined with corbels and dentils. The centre of the roof features an ornate relief that reads “Treble Hall” and the year the building was completed.

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Jeff Feswick, owner of Historia Building Restoration Inc, bought the building in 2010 and has uncovered layers of history hidden in the floors and walls. The interior has been gutted, exposing the framing and joists, save for a few walls with patches of peeling wallpaper. The space has sat unused for decades, until now.

Feswick wants to see Treble Hall come to life, like it used to be, as a public space. And that’s exactly what’s happening on July 11th.

The flea market features the following vendors:

Girl on the Wing
The Eye of Faith
Roly Poly Records and Retro
White Elephant
Jelly Brothers
Perk Naturals
Moulin Rouge
Academy of All Things Awesome
Donut Monster
Sweet Ice Snow Cones
Stay Home Club
No Fun Press
Yo Sick
… and many more

Young Lions Music Club will be spinning tunes throughout the day and the flea runs from 11am-6pm. Find “The Secret Door” to enter.

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Architectural Spotlight: Stelco Tower

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Stelco Tower
Arthur C.F. Lau
100 King Street W
Completed: 1973

Look up, way up. 338 feet up to be exact. That’s the height of Stelco Tower, currently the second tallest building in Hamilton. A modern tower of 26-storeys designed by Quebec architect Arthur C.F. Lau.

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The building was erected to not only house Stelco’s head office, but also showcase the company’s newest steel, “Stelcoloy,” a special steel alloy that was meant to rust slower and protect the steel from future damage. Now a rusty brown through years of oxidation, the steel was a blue-grey when the building was completed in 1973. Not as striking as the patina of copper, but the material still has charm.

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The design is minimalist, almost Miesian, an International Style tower with local flair. However, it doesn’t have the prominent vertical flanged mullions of a Mies van der Rohe skyscraper. Instead the tower emphasizes height through a repetitive grid of horizontal bands of glass and Stelcoloy. The volume of the building draws your eyes up.

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At 100 King Street, the three-storey entrance is austere. Inside the lobby it’s strictly business, with an elevator core clad in stainless steel, red granite floors, and a lonesome security desk. Jackson Square Mall is connected to the tower on the north side and it can also be accessed via the malls plaza roof. Occupancy is low since Stelco moved out completely in 2004, leaving many stories vacant.

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Currently the 21st floor is an empty space available for events, offering breathtaking views of the city.

The tower was part of Hamilton’s first urban revitalization project that plagued the city with modern, auto-centric planning as early as 1958 and included the construction of Jackson Square starting in 1968.

Don’t be fooled by the rusty façade, better days are yet to come for Stelco Tower.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – June 1st

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Highland Secondary School (Architect: Stanley Roscoe) – Dundas

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June 1, 2015 · 9:40 pm

Architectural Spotlight: The Federal Life Assurance Company Building

IMG_0146 Federal Life Assurance Company Building
Finley and Spence 40
James Street South
Completed: 1906

The Federal Life Assurance Company building sits amongst some of the Hamilton’s most cherished buildings, yet it’s history has been overlooked. Completed in 1906 and designed by Montreal-based architects Samuel A. Finley and David J. Spence of Finley and Spence, this Beaux-Arts building is composed of neo-classical elements and designed in the Commercial Style. A style made popular by Louis Sullivan and the Chicago School of Architecture.

At 9-storeys the Federal Assurance Company building is just shy of being Hamilton’s first steel framed skyscraper (one storey short of the 10-storey minimum). It was constructed with steel and reinforced concrete, supporting the glazed terracotta façade. The commercial style was breakthrough for the time. Its massing and height were an evolution from its heavier wood and stone predecessors. A popular theory about the commercial style is the building symbolizes a classical column, divided in three sections. IMG_0155 The first section, the base of the building, is less decorative. Composed of reinforced concrete, with tall windows, spandrels, and detailed window reveals, but little else. Middle White glazed terracotta and double-hung windows make up the middle of the building, or the shaft of the column. The vertical gaps between every second window emphasize the buildings height and draw the eyes up. Before the top section of the metaphorical column there are ornamental crests surrounded by wreaths and windows with a continuous band of decorative lintels. IMG_0157 The top two-stories, or the capital, are separated by a horizontal band of foliage and dentils. More ornamental foliage is added to attract the eye, while the top floor is complimented with porthole windows surrounded by intricate wreaths. On the southern façade the portholes are just reliefs with no glass or ornament, but still add to the decorative effect and keep with the buildings characteristics.

Photo Courtesy: Toronto Public Library

Photo Courtesy: Toronto Public Library

The roof was originally capped with a large projecting cornice, but it has since been removed, leaving the top of the building naked. IMG_0142 Other changes have been made to the building, as well. Some windows have been added and removed from the west side of the building. There is also a two-story post-modern parking garage added to the back of the building from the early 1990s. The addition features simple brickwork, columns, green corrugated steel, tinted glass windows, and more porthole reliefs. Originally built for the Federal Life Assurance Company, the building houses both commercial and residential tenants.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – April 27th

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Main St & James St S – History and Heritage x 3

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