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.
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.
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.”
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.