Doors Open Hamilton


I feel like a bit of a fraud posting photos from my iPhone of these beautiful heritage buildings and the architecture, but I'm without a camera right now and working with what I have. Last year was the start of a new tradition between me and my mum. We spent both days of Doors Open Hamilton exploring sites across the city and taking in the history. The most memorable were Auchmar Manor Estate, Whitehern Historic House, Ancaster's Shaver Homestead, Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (Custom House) and Mohawk Trail School Museum. Oh, and the countless beautiful churches -- St. Stanislaus Kostka, MacNab Presbyterian and Christ Church Cathedral. I hope you'll visit some of them this weekend.

I couldn't think of a better way to begin this year's tour than at The Lister Block. We got an early start with the 10:30 tour and though I mistakenly thought it was summer and stood shivering outside in a skirt and sleeveless top, every minute of the guided tour was eye opening. You cannot fully appreciate the time, work and love that went into restoring this building without seeing the state of damage and disrepair it was in before. HIStory + HERitage produced this video with photos taken prior to the start of the restoration work. Watching it brings tears to my eyes, and I'm so grateful to those who saw the potential in this landmark and fought to return The Lister Block to its former glory.


The details of the decorative plaster pilaters and arches were reproduced by taking casts of the original moldings (above). On the second level, the original terrazzo flooring with mosaic borders was repolished (below). 


Central Presbyterian Church is a landmark on Caroline Street South, where I live. We have the most incredible view of the steeple lit up at night from our backyard. Built in 1908, around the same time as my home, I'm always drawn to the architectural details. With a rich history, the church features memorial stained glass windows and the most beautiful organ I've ever heard. After an insightful tour by some incredibly passionate volunteers, we learned this was the only church designed by architect John MacIntosh Lyle. His father was a Minister at the time. To my surprise, this was the same architect who designed Union Station. When I first began working at GO Transit's head office, I was part of the Union Station Revitalization project team and spent countless hours researching the history of Union Station. I look forward to seeing the revitalization of one of Lyle's visionary buildings. Little did I know, one of them was right on my street. 


Details of the staircase at The Green Cottage (below).


I sometimes forget that Adam and I briefly lived in Ancaster last year. Because of this, my mum and I visited many of Ancaster's sites for Doors Open Hamilton at that time. There's are some incredible spots to check out -- the Hermitage Gatehouse, Enerals Griffin House, Shaver Homstead and Bethesda United Church. The one we missed, and made sure to drop by this year was Ancaster's Old Township Hall. Built in 1870, the building was saved from demolition in 1966. As such, it's a historical hub of the community.


On the second day of Doors Open Hamilton, we began our journey at the Veevers Estate, now known as the Eco House. This pre-Confederation stone farmhouse dates back to the early settlement of Saltfleet Township between 1951-61. The historical site now homes the offices of Green Venture.


One of my favourite stops on the tour today was The Museum of Steam and Technology. This 19th century engineering landmark has preserved two 45-foot high, 70-ton steam engines which pumped the first clean water to the city over 140 years ago. I may have been more amazed than the kids at live engine demonstration. And apparently these Canadian made engines are the oldest surviving examples in the nation. 


We love 270 Sherman. We previously featured painter Sara Caracristi's studio space and often visit photographer Brooks Reynolds at his studio space here. But I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the history of the building itself. The Imperial Cotton Company was built in 1900 as a rival cotton duck mill to the mill in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. In 1924, it merged with the former Yarmouth Duck & Cotton and was in operation until 1972 when most of the employees and machinery were sent back to Nova Scotia. Today it remains one of the most complete historic textile mill complexes in the country.This building now houses workshops and studios for creative professionals, and is famous for its appearances in TV and movie productions. They also host incredible events and exhibits including TH&B2 which in on display until May 12.


Osler House was built in 1848 by William Miller, and also served as the childhood home of Sir William Osler, the world famous physician. This Georgian style home is now a Bed & Breakfast, and guests are offered the gracious level of hospitality practised in homes of the Victorian era.


The Valley City Manufacturing industrial complex was built in 1846, and was originally home to the Gartshore Foundry that produced grain mills, steamship engines & pumps for waterworks. Valley City acquired the space in 1893 and became a leading manufacturer of fine furniture. Despite their customer focus, innovations, use of new technologies and ability to adapt to the changing market, the business is sadly in the process of closing. Production stopped last week, and we received the very last public tour of the space. It was heartbreaking to see a business with 120 continuous years of service, and a reputation for quality and craftsmanship shutting down.


When these loading carts are cleaned up, they will sell for $800 - $1000 a piece (above). The last supplies of materials are being sold off (below).


In addition to those above we visited the Hotel Hamilton Studios, Port Authority and Laidlaw Memorial Church. The latter of the two sites were celebrating their centennial. Over the last two years my mum and I have near covered every site and we lucked out with some really great tours this year. I can't think of a better way to rediscover the city and its history. It gives me so much pride to live here and be a part of the community. When we first started the blog it was the history of a building or space that lured us in. We always aimed to showcase the historical features or tell the story of a building's past. This hasn't changed. As creative entrepreneurs are establishing their shops and studios in Hamilton, they are mixing in with the original ones, preserving the heritage and establishing their own presence. And when we visit them, we find ourselves discovering little pieces of history in the city, while watching it's future unfold.

Doors Open Hamilton

May 5th & 6th