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Architectural Spotlight: Dundas Town Hall

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Dundas Town Hall
Francis Hawkins
60 Main Street, Dundas
Completed: 1849

Completed in 1849, Dundas Town Hall is one of the oldest remaining municipal buildings in Hamilton.

It was designed in the Neo-Romanesque tradition at a cost of £2500 by a local planing mill proprietor named Francis Hawkins. The exterior massing is row related, with Palladian symmetry on a central site in Dundas. Over the buildings history, two separate additions of differing styles have been added to the North and South sides.

The original two-storey building consists of a sandstone exterior, complete with a central domed clock tower. The main entrance is centrally located, flanked by pilasters, with two-doors and a leaded transom above.
DundastownThe lower and semi-elliptical upper-storey windows are double hung and proportioned according to the pilasters and horizontal belt courses, which divide the massing into a symmetrical unity.

Interior

A notable feature inside the original building is it’s second floor hall. Designed in the British revival style, the lofty ceilings, chandeliers and crown molding create a traditional hall setting that is now primarily used as an auditorium.

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In 1946, a staircase was added as the South Entrance for greater accessibility. To the naked eye, the addition looks to fit the original style. But when examined more closely, it was built in the Edwardian fashion.

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The addition is composed of Indiana limestone recovered from the ruins of a fire that demolished the Knox Presbyterian Church in 1940. With a broken pediment above the entrance, rusticated pilasters, double arch windows, and an urn embellishment, it subtly breaks away from the simplicity of the original plan.

Rotunda

The second addition, by architect Arthur Taylor, is of a modern design. The single-storey, rotunda-like, circular council chambers features recessed windows, a peaked polygonal roof, and a modern interior. Two square offices were also added, creating architecture of geometric forms on the North Side of town hall.

Although the addition compliments the original town hall right down to the sandstone exterior, citizens, heritage advocates, and councilors were skeptical of the design. However, after lengthy debate, it was completed in 1972 to the applause of many.

The town hall is located on what was known as Haymarket Square, a meeting place for farmers throughout the area bringing produce to the town. When town hall was initially completed in 1849, it housed the town jail in the basement, alongside the Crystal Palace Saloon. The basement also had butchers’ stalls and farmers’ stands.

Since the amalgamation Dundas Town Hall sits underutilized, but continues to live on triumphantly as an essential piece of Dundas built heritage.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – January 31st

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Dundurn Castle – 610 York Boulevard

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January 31, 2015 · 7:38 pm

PHOTO OF THE DAY – January 16th

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Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King – 714 King Street W

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Photo Of The Day – November 14th

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Treble Hall – 8 John St N

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November 14, 2014 · 6:54 pm

Tours With An Architect: The Dundas Museum & Archives

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Nestled amongst a quiet residential neighbourhood on Park Street West, sits the newly renovated Dundas Museum and Archives.

Completed in November 2013 at cost of $1.4 million, the new expansion features a double-height atrium connecting the Dundas Historical Society Museum to the Pirie House, expanded galleries, additional storage, and greater accessibility.

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“The north and south entrances (of the atrium) and the original exhibit space are all at different heights,” said Drew Hauser, Principle Architect at MSA Architects, the firm commissioned to design the expansion. “The atrium brings them all together, accessibly.”

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Dundas Museum and Archives Curator Kevin Puddister said the original entrance of the Dundas Historical Society Museum (completed in 1956) was a nightmare. “You had to go up two sets of stairs that were both steep. We had a chair lift, like on the [infomercials],” said Puddister. The exterior of the old entrance is currently enclosed in glass, which the museum plans to use to promote their events.

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Now there is an elevator in the atrium, added with the help of the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, connecting to the original exhibit space. The entrance to the exhibit space is open and shared, with the stairs and elevator side-by-side.

Hauser and his team expanded the galleries. The feature gallery “used to have something like a stage, but we got rid of it,” said Hauser, giving the gallery space more available square footage. The ceiling tiles have been removed, leaving the ceiling exposed and pot lights were installed on sliding tracks.

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The double-height atrium, named Robert & Eva (Betrum) Cole Atrium (after the family of the Dundas Museum founder H.G. Bertram), features exposed beams, celestial windows, corrugated steel cladding, and an area to display artifacts like the machine lathe that was built by John Bertram and Sons Co. in 1896. “I bought it on Kijiji!” boasts Puddister, with a smile.

Puddister says the atrium was inspired by Dundas’ industrial past. “What many people don’t realize is that Dundas was an industrial town, and the atrium has that industrial look to it.”

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The atrium also connects to the Pirie House, bought by the museum in 1974. The walls separating the rooms inside the house have been removed and the area is open, yet intimate, and has become a popular event space.

There is ease to the museums layout. A flow that is both sociable and transparent. “It’s a better space for security and engagement,” said Puddister. “We have staff throughout the museum. It’s more fluid.”

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The Doctors Office, a Gothic Revival building built in 1848 and moved behind the museum in 1974, is also connected via concrete pathway. “I love that we linked the museum to the Doctors Office. This space (the north lawn) would be a great place to throw events in the future,” said Hauser.

Both Hauser and Puddister are pleased with the renovation. “This was one of my favourite projects,” said Hauser. “The Board of Directors was really great to work with. They were really understanding.”

The Dundas Museum and Archives is located at 139 Park St West and is open from Tuesday to Saturday.

For more information visit http://www.dundasmuseum.ca/

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Architectural Spotlight: The Lister Block

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At the corner of James Street North and King William sits the Lister Block (or Lady Lister). Once neglected, the mid-rise commercial building has been brought back to life with a vibrancy that expresses Hamilton’s ambition.

Completed in 1924, the current Lister Block was erected on the grounds of the old Lister Chambers, built by Joseph Lister in 1886, which was demolished due to a fire in 1923. The building closed its doors in 1995 after decades of vacancy, neglect, and sprawling development.

LiUNA bought the Lister Block back in 1999, letting it sit vacant for over a decade. In 2010, LiUNA and  Hi-Rise Group began to renovate the building at the cost of $25 million, with a $7 million contribution from the province. The renovation was completed in early 2011.

Designed by architect Bernard Prack and constructed by the Pigott Construction Company, the six-storey Classical Renaissance building references the highly influential work of Chicago’s “father of the skyscraper”, Louis Sullivan.

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At street level, the first two floors are composed of off-white terracotta, complete with pilasters and Corinthian capitals, a projecting cornice, and a frieze design consisting of cartouches. Bay windows compliment the terracotta, while copper detailing and leaded transoms add visual weight to a light composition.

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The upper stories consist of a contrasting dark red brick, with double-hung windows, and copper alloy spandrels. Heavy fenestration and spandrels make the brick stand out, creating a vertical emphasis in a Sullivanesque fashion. The building is crowned with a projecting terracotta cornice adorned with organic ornamentation, creating the metaphorical “icing on the cake.”

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Inside, the arcade is complete with terrazzo tiles, wood framed storefronts, arched ceilings with crown molding, and detailed skylights that provide ample natural lighting. The upper floors have been renovated to accommodate offices for the city.

Although initially marred in controversy over its neglect, Lister Block  has been brought back from near extinction. The restoration of this significant piece of Hamilton heritage has made Lister Block a shining beacon of urban renewal.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – February 3rd

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The Fawcett House – Romar Dr, Dundas

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February 3, 2014 · 7:37 pm

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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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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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.

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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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