Hamilton’s Heritage Committee Gets Ear full From Voters

James Street Baptist Church, is a heritage designated building in the City of Hamilton, Ontario.  It is oldest surviving Baptist Church in the City of Hamilton, Ontario.

Declining church membership and increasing repair costs caused the congregation to sell the building. The Developer, who purchased the building, wants to build condos on the site and save as much of the heritage designated building as possible.

After taking ownership, however, the Developer says he found structural problems that posed a safety risk to the public and sought permission from the City to demolish part of the building.

A sub-committee of the City’s heritage committee (the Permits Committee) agreed to the developer’s request for a partial demolition.

Since the granting of the demolition permit, the Durand Neighbourhood Association, within which the Church is located, has questioned why the demolition permit did not come to the City’s Heritage Committee and then City Council for review and approval.

On April 17th, the Heritage Committee received presentations from the neighbourhood association and the developer.

Local and Independent Reporter, Joey Coleman, provided live video of the meeting.  This video coverage is now posted to his Youtube site.

Below is the video and a time line guide to the two presentations and the questions from the committee.  This is only a guide, for exact wording of questions, answers, and comments, please refer to Joey’s video of the meeting.

Many thanks to Joey Coleman for covering the meeting and his excellent reporting of City Hamilton business.

Video of the Heritage Meeting of April 17th, 2014


Timeline Guide to the Meeting


Janice Brown, Durand Neighbourhood Association (about 18 mins long)

Presentation starts at about the 11:20 mark.


13:26 – discussion of the memorandum on the delegation of Council authority to staff


16:10 – Brown has concerns over why the memorandum was not made into a bylaw


16:50 – Brown asks several questions of the Heritage including


-         Why did the staff and representatives not recognize that James Street Baptist was an extraordinary application?

-         Why was the application not flagged

-         Why did it not go to full consideration by the heritage committee?

-         Why did people not realize that this is a controversial issue and should have been forwarded to planning and economic development committee and Council for final approval?


18:45 – questions continue


If you disregarded this statement (memorandum) then how did you make the decision to not forward to planning and economic development and Council?


-         Don’t know your criteria is?


Brown explains the importance of the delegation of authority to staff on the Durand neighbourhood.


Brown notes that the Durand neighbourhood may have the most of the heritage designated buildings in Hamilton.  The neighbourhood also has two conservation districts. In the future, any of these buildings might come down without clear criteria.


20:00 Brown reads a letter to the Heritage Committee


24:00 Chair of the Heritage Committee


Chair notes that the procedures put in place were followed.


25.00 Questions by Paul Wilson, member of the Heritage Committee


-         Bump-up procedures (memorandum) were never made part of the bylaw?


25:45   – Comment is made that this should be looked at.


26:45   – Jason Farr comments on the Durand Presentation


-         Farr notes that he respected the process that was in place

-         This situation provides an opportunity to address this process for future decisions

-         We do this every 5 years, so it is time


29:00   – The Durand Neighbourhood Association’s Presentation is received by the Heritage Committee.


Louie Santaguida, Stanton Renaissance Presentation (about 16 mins)


29.00 – Starts immediately after the end of the Heritage Committee votes to receive the Durand Neighbourhood Association


–        Have worked hand-in-hand with the City

–        The City has worked very hard to ensure that every policy and procedure has been keep

–        Have gone beyond (what is required??)

–        One of the very first buildings where you got a letter of credit so that the preservation is maintain

–        View this as a community changer

–        Jason Farr has been kept abreast as far as we can


32.00 – Update on the Project


-         The hoarding has gone up (the temporary fencing)

-         The road has been closed off

-         Looking at how much can be saved

-         A structural (support wall is being built to protect part of the structure??)


32.56 – Update continues


-         we are in the design links of the project

-         we are (in a position of) not knowing what we can be built

-         this is not typical

-         being done because of the structural integrity of the building

-         working on issues of parking


34.15 – Update continues


-         trying to maintain more strain glass

-         trying to incorporate more public space

-         concept plans (should be ready) in about four weeks


36.00 – there was an alternative and we decided not to go down that route


Questions by Paul Wilson


Wilson expresses concern about a heritage building being knotting down without a plan being in place.


Is the City telling you that it needs to be torn down now?


They gave you a demolition permit, it wasn’t the City’s order that you tear down the building?


38.00 – Questions continue


Why does it (James Street Baptist Church) need to come down now, before we know what’s going in its place?


Can you share a little more about what will go in there?


39.49 – Questions continue


What is the status of the north wall?


When do you hope this project will be completed?


Do you have any concerns (regarding completing the project)?


40.40 – the Chair of the Permits Committee (who is a member of the Heritage Committee) comments that he has read the original engineering report and is surprised that a demolition order wasn’t put out by the City.


41.20 – Rather save some of it than none of it


41.29 – Another member of the Heritage Committee cites other buildings that had serious problems and were able to be saved, asks the Developer if there other possibilities for the James Street Baptist Church?


43.43 Heritage Committee votes to receive Louie Santaguida’s, Stanton Renaissance Presentation


Committee moves onto other issues.


Chris Erskine, @erskinec

Monday’s Artist Update for April 14, 2014

A weekly review of art related activities by artist Chris Erskine.

This week:

1.)           Will Cuts Impact CBC Hamilton?

2.)           Are We There Yet? – Backpack Journalism

3.)           So, what is this Blog All About?

4.)           Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival Returns


Will Cuts Impact CBC Hamilton?

Commentary – On Thursday, CBC announced 657 job cuts over two years because of a budget shortfall.  I cannot help but wonder if there may be an impact on CBC Hamilton.

The CBC Hamilton is a digital outlet and may represent the future for the entire Network.  Working with limited resources, the station has done a remarkable job at covering significant stories from the community.

You could envision, however, that the unconventional format (digital) and the short history (opened on May 9, 2012) may make the Hamilton operations vulnerable to more established interests within the CBC Network.

I, also, believe that  CBC Hamilton has been weak in its coverage of the Arts and Music scene. This is particularly surprising given its location on James Street North. On my most critical days, I feel that CBC Hamilton is trying to be the next Hamilton Spectator rather than focusing on building its own unique brand within the Hamilton community.

This being said, CBC Hamilton is only two years old and needs to be given more time and resources so that it may develop to its full potential.

So, as this story plays out, I believe everyone must be ready to defend CBC Hamilton, and ensure that our stories continue to be told.


Are We There Yet? Backpack Journalism

Commentary – 10 or 15 years ago, the technology did not exist for an individual to document and broadcast to the world.  Today, with the internet and technology that can fit into a backpack, an individual can create documentaries or provide alternative news reporting.

Locally, we can see this with Joey Coleman and his coverage of Hamilton City Hall.

I recently came across some Youtube videos that may give you a better feel for this new type of journalism.

Bill Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary film-maker and he has some nice videos on backpack journalism.



So, What this Blog All About?

Fat Cats – Starving Dogs is a blog about my experience as an artist.  It is an open journal of my struggles to explore my truth, and express that understanding of the truth through inks, paints, and films.

I use text and film to tell my stories,  about the creative process, to the larger world.  I am not trying to be a reporter on the art scene, or to sell stuff, or to simply re-cycle information from other sources.  instead, I am trying to create original content based on my experiences as an artist.  I use other sources when that information impacts my interests as an artist.

In the war between perfection and getting it out there, I will side with the latter.  Nevertheless, I am striving for the best content possible.  So, this blog is a work in progress and your patience is appreciated.


What Are the Stories?

As an Artist, I am interested in buildings and how these objects express who we are as individuals and as communities.

If you think about the time and resources that go into constructing, outfitting, and maintaining these creations then that must tell us something about who we are.

Like people, buildings have beginnings, middles and ends.  They not only influence the people who live and work there, but the surrounding landscape, as well.

I am particularly interested in historical and heritage buildings because we have the perspective in terms of time and experience to more clearly appreciate them. That being said, I do like contemporary architecture as well.


Who is my audience?

This blog is for people who are interested in the visual arts, architecture, and history.  Most importantly, this blog is about Hamilton.  My family has lived or worked in Hamilton for over 100 years.  Through my art, not only do I explore Hamilton’s history but my own family’s history, as well.


Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival Returns


Hamilton's 24 Hour Film Festival

Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival

After taking a year off, the Hamilton’s 24 Hour Film Festival returns this June.

With only five months of film experience, I and two other friends (Jane and Shani) have decided to throw our hat into the ring with our early registration this past Thursday.

As Team Fat Cats – Starving Dogs, we hope to meet the challenge with creative story telling.

It is my hope that by creating a film, we advance our skills as  film-makers. There is nothing like a goal to focus the mind.

Wish us luck.



Monday’s Update for April 7, 2014

A weekly update of art related activities with a focus on Hamilton, Ontario; by artist Chris Erskine. Updates are posted every Monday.

 Topics for this week:

1.)        Mastering Time

2.)        We Are Not Alone

3.)        Heritage List Goes to Council

4.)        Durand Letter Goes to Council

5.)        Printing Architecture

6.)        Kirk Cobain


1.) Mastering time

Time-lapse photography continues to be a challenge.  I am learning how to deal with bright sunny days that wash out the colours.  This means using neutral density lenses and learning how to do colour correction and colour grading.

I have provided raw samples of the work done over the past seven days.

The second challenge is learning how to tell stories with film.  How do you write a story that is interesting to the audience?  What are filming techniques for storytelling?  For example, when do you use wide, medium, and close-up shots?  How do you use sound and music to support the story?  How do you use editing bring everything together?

My goal is to create compelling visual stories Hamilton’s built heritage and thus make more people interested saving our history.

What makes history important is not what it says about the past, but what is says about our future.

2.) We are not alone

We are not alone is trying to save our past.  The Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail had an article about a condo developer demolishing an 1896 building in their heritage district.  What is particularly funny-sad about the situation is the situation is that the developer is going to copy the style of the 1896 building in the new building.

Heritage advocates are worried that the new condo project will weaken the support for the heritage district.  What is already sad is the 1896 building was filled with good paying tenants from the film industry.


3.) Heritage Inventory List Goes to Council

Last Wednesday, the Heritage Inventory List Project Report was accepted by Council.  The Report listed almost 1,000 potential heritage-worthy buildings in the down-town core.  Along with the list, the Project created a community statement that will act as criteria for determining what properties should or should not be included.  This community statement will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and hopefully capture how each area of Hamilton is the product of different histories.

Brian McHattie cited the example of Westdale and the pressure to build larger homes within a community mostly shaped by 1920s and 1930s architecture.

It will be interesting to see the list for the down-town properties.  While Westdale is largely shaped by one period, the inter-war period, others like the down-town are shaped by different eras that all have a valid claim for recognition and preservation.


4.) Durand Letter Goes to Council

Durand Neighbourhood Association Raises Questions

Durand Neighbourhood Association Raises Questions

The Durand Neighbourhood Association has expressed concern over the decision making process surrounding the partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church.  The Heritage Permits Committee is a sub-committee of the Heritage Committee.  All Committees work for Hamilton City Council.  So, it is my understanding that the Durand folks are questioning why the approval for the partial demolition was not reviewed and approved by first the Heritage Committee and then Hamilton City Council.

The letter was addressed to City Council and Joey Coleman noted that it was addressed, but I could not find a discussion (if any) during the nearly six hour meeting of Council.  I do not know if the letter was merely accepted into the records or whether Council offered comments.

If anyone knows, please send me a tweet.


5.) Printing Architecture

I came across this amazing VEMIO video on using a 3D printer to create room with architectural features.  It was amazing and reminded me of “I Robert” where the home of the creator of Roberts is demolished because he was dead.  Like fake wood furniture, the home little value after the owner died.

If the home were built in a traditional manner, this would seem like a terrible waste but imagine if they a 3D printer built it.


6.) Kirk Cobain

Kirk Cobain dies 20 yrs ago

Kirk Cobain dies 20 yrs ago

Saturday’s was the 20th anniversary of the suicide of Kirk Cobain – it is amazing how time flies.  I remember buying cassette tapes of Nirvana from Sam the Record Man on James Street North.  The Globe and Mail had a good story on Cobain in the Saturday edition.

Monday’s Update for March 31st, 2014

Posted every Monday, this is my weekly review of art related activities. Topics this week:

1.) Where’s the time gone? – learning time-lapse photography

2.) Demolishing heritage in order to save it – James Street Baptist Church

3.) Only famous when you’re dead – street photographer, Vivian Maier

4.) Learning to make a bomb – knitting class at HandKnit Yarn Studio

5.) Even Picassos are throwaways – the Four Season Curtain



Where’s the time gone?

Time-lapse photography is a great way to capture the sense that time is passing, particularly with storytelling. I had hoped to use this technique for a film project on the creation of Cork-town, but the project proved to be much larger than expected. One complication being the fact that the Canon 600D DSLR Camera (Rebel 3Ti) does not allow for interval photo taking (time-lapse), so I installed the Magic Lantern software that offers a whole bunch of extra features. Unfortunately, I have had some problems using the LED screen, particularly in bright sunlight. To solve this problem, I have purchased a remote control that permits time-lapse photography.

Here is my second attempt using the remote control:

Demolishing heritage in order to save it

Many heritage advocates have been concern that most of the designated James Street Baptist Church will soon be demolished because the developer believes the building is unsafe. The City’s heritage permit sub-committee agreed to the request to demolish the unsafe parts of the building and this work scheduled to begin this week. Starting with the inside of the building and then moving to the outside structure in the summer or fall of this year, according the media reports.

I believe the plans for the site are very exciting if you agreed that the building is unsafe and must be partial torn down in order to save it. However, I understand that no independent assessment of the building has been made with the perspective of saving the architecture. Others have also expressed concern that the Permit Committee decision was not ratified by the whole Heritage Committee or City Council.

As one person noted in the newspaper, since so few buildings get heritage designation, there should be an extra effort to review proposals that would involve demolition. While I am not a big fan of the architecture of this Church, I am concern about the standard this case sets for other heritage designated buildings in the city.


Only famous when you’re dead

Street Photographer, Vivian Maier, is becoming quite famous now that she is dead, according to the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail (page R4).

Maier is this amazing woman who worked as a Nanny for a rich Chicago family and spent her one day off per week photographing the streets of the City. With no family, her few belonging were sold or given away. A local amateur historian, John Maloof, purchased over 30,000 of negatives from a repossessed storage locker. He had hoped to find images that might advance his work but soon realized the great artistic value.

Today, the people are much more aware of photography and the concept of privacy then compared to earlier times. Maier was able to capture many unguarded moments of everyday life.

Interestingly, one thing that is holding back her work from greater recognition is the fact that Maier printed hardly any of her photos and left no directions on how the negatives should be handled. With no direct connection between the hand of the artist and potential prints, most Museums are reluctant to accept her work into their collections.


Learning to make a bomb

On Thursday, I started to learn how to make a knit bomb or to be more accurate; I started to learn how to knit. At the recommend of Liz from “I love needlework,” I signed up for a 3 hour beginner session at The “Hand

Handknit Yarn Studio

Handknit Yarn Studio

Knit Yarn Studio.” The store is located at 4 Cannon Street East, around the corner from Mixed Media. It was a great evening and I learned a lot.


My ambition is to cover a several trees with yarn for my oldest daughter’s birthday. Knit or Yarn bombing is a form of craft street art-activism that is sweeping through the artist communities along the Pacific West Coast and England. Here are a few examples:

source - www. womanundone.com

source – www. womanundone.com



Even Picassos are throwaway

The owner of the Seagram’s building in New York City wants to remove Picasso’s 1919 Le Tricorne from the wall of the Four Seasons restaurant according to the Saturday’s edition of the Globe and Mail (Page R2).

The artwork is on fabric that has been mounted to the wall. The size and age of the work makes it impossible to move without a significant risk of damage. According to the article, the owner of the building claims there are structural problems with the building that need repair work to be done and hence the moving of the artwork.

Philip Johnson designed the four seasons restaurant and in 1993 was designated as a landmark. Unfortunately for the artwork, the curtain was considered to be detachable and, therefore, not coverage by the designation.

New York City has led the way on heritage issues and how the matter is resolved will likely impact heritage cases everywhere.

The organization that is fighting to protect the artwork is Landmark Conservancy; an advocacy group formed in reaction to the demolition of Penn Station. Today, Landmark Conservancy is funded by some of New York City’s largest corporations and is a leader in heritage preservation.

Monday’s Update for March 24th

Sorry for the delay and the lack of media.  Spent Sunday evening trying to do time-lapse photography of the James Street Baptist Church.  Media that goes along with the text will follow over the next several days.


Monday’s Update for March 24, 2014

A weekly update on my art related activities.  This week:

1.)    Artists should be seen but not heard

2.)    The ice cube that wouldn’t melt

3.)    Demolishing heritage in order to save it

4.)    Downtown Heritage Inventory Project goes to Council

5.)    Other art-heritage news reported in the media


Artists Should Be Seen and Not Heard

New Yorker Critic, Peter Schjeldahl, states that

“…one of the things I tell artists is I don’t want to hear them talk about their work.  I want them to shut up and I will talk.”

(For New Yorker critic, all art is contemporary, by James Adams. Globe and Mail, March 22, 2014 page R2)

In the article interview by James Adams of the Globe Mail (Saturday’s edition, page R2), Scheldahl goes on to say that the Artist’s “mind that produces analysis and explanation is turned off.”

Well, it is great if you get lots of reviews in papers like the New Yorker, Washington Post, or the Guardian, but for most artists, there is nothing but silence.  I wish artists would talk more about their art.  A lot of artists seem to prefer a cloak of mystery.  Somehow, I am supposed to divine the value of their art.

Why do you think the public is so uninterested in most art?  My answer is that we are putting up too many barriers, particularly if the art is challenging.

Once you know something about the artist and what he or she is trying to achieve then you can join the adventure together.

Stephanie Vegh, executive director of the Hamilton Arts Council, recently wrote that…

“Because the work behind art is rarely seen or heard, it’s all too easy to attach value to the creative product alone without considering the hours of training and toil that made it possible.”

(Being an artist is work. Really., by Stephanie Vegh.  Hamilton Spectator, March 14th, 2014).

I completely agreed with her assessment, but holding special events is not enough.  I believe, and the reason for this blog, you must invite the people into the process of creating art.  You need to provide a behind the scenes view of your work and your hopes and dreams.

With the development of the internet and social media, artists have the ability, like never before, to reach out and build an audience for their art.

Hamilton has some very talent people out there and they should be seen and heard.


The Ice Cube that Wouldn’t Melt


How do you capture the passage of time?  As an artist, I am always looking for a way to explore memory, history, and time with regards to architecture and landscapes.  Maybe time-lapse photography would be helpful.  Little did I know the pain and suffering involved?

Beyond the technical challenges of getting my Canon 600D camera to capture these photos and then turning them into a mini-film, this damn little ice cube would not melt!

After setting in a warm kitchen for over one hour, this ice cube seemed almost as good as new.  Next time, I will film a clock.


Demolishing Heritage in Order to Save It


Janice Brown, President of the Durand Neighbourhood Association, is questioning the process for granting the partial demolition of the James Street Baptist Church.

The Permit Review Committee of the Municipal Heritage Committee approved the partial demolition of the heritage designated building, but the decision was never reviewed by the full Heritage Committee or City Council.

Furthermore, public input into the decision-making process was also bypassed.  Given the significant impact on the structure, the decision should not have been left to City staff or to members of a sub-committee.

It was certainly my impression that the decision would go to the Heritage Committee and then be ratified by City Council.  I followed closely the meetings via Joey Coleman’s live-streamed and archived videos.

My concern with the process is the lack of an independent assessment on whether or not the building could be saved.  With that information, we could have had a debate about the options and costs for the future development of the building.


Downtown Heritage Inventory Project goes to Council

After a year of work, the Downtown Heritage Inventory Project goes to Council this Wed, March 26, 2014.

The goal of the project is generate a list of potential heritage designated worthy buildings but to design criteria for reaching that conclusion.

Prior to amalgamation, each community had its own rationale for what buildings went onto the current list.  This project will recommend one criteria for the entire city with additional information on the building.  This will allow Council to make informed decisions on whether a building should be designated or not.


Other News Reported in the Media

1.)    Developer is appealing the heritage designation on the Gore Park Buildings

2.)    Hamilton is looking at promoting the 1836 Chedoke House as a potential site for film production

3.)    The 1870s Gage Park House is to get repair work done

4.)    Council did not support a request to close James Street North to car traffic during the monthly Art Crawls.

The End.

Monday’s Update for March 17th, 2014

A weekly review of art related activities.

This week:

1.) Installing Magic Lantern on my Canon 600d DSLR

2.) Failure to complete my film project on the history of the Irish community of Cork-Town, located in Hamilton (Ont).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cork-Town is known for being the historical heart of the Hamilton’s Irish community, but during the 19th century, most Irish lived outside its boundaries. So, why did Cork-town become so associated with the Irish? This is the question that I wish to answer with a film project entitled “tales of Cork-Town”.

Last year, I did extensive research on the history of Cork-town. It is surprising how little historical research is available on Hamilton. You would think that there would be lots of research available given the age, size, and importance of Hamilton; to both Ontario and Canada. If you read the history books, it seems only Toronto had any significance.

Another challenge is how much of the past has been demolished or reshaped beyond recognition. Even when you have photos, things have changed so much that it is almost impossible to place a building within the contemporary landscape.

Last year, I hoped to create a series of prints that captured various aspects of Cork-town. The perspective that I hoped to use was the arrival of the Irish at the docks in the 1850s-1880s. Unfortunately, the project never gelled, and I decided to move on to other things.

This year, I decided to use art and photos to create a film project. Each short film would be 1-2 minutes in duration and would tell a different story of Cork-town.

While I did not expect to have the project completed by March 17th, I did hope that the previous efforts would quicken the development process. Unfortunately, film-making is proving to be more challenging than I originally imagined.

For example, I needed to install the firmware, Magic Lantern. This should have been straight forward task, but it took over 24 hours to discover that the software only works on 32 GB memory cards when you are installing it for the first time.

I want to do time lapse photography, but the Canon DSLR 600D only permits intervals of 5 seconds. To do anything faster would require an expensive timer remote controller (for example, the Canon TC-80N3 for $200) or installing of special software. Since Magic Lantern is free and can be used for other film-making tasks, I choose this option.

My current 32GB card was partial filled with family photos, so I decided to buy a new card.

The office supply store had a 32 GB card priced at $99.00 (Lexar 32 GB SDHC 600x class-10 card), but you can get a 64 GB card for $120 (Lexar 64 GB SDXC 600x class-10 card). So, for extra $20, I could double my memory. Unfortunately, I did not realize that Magic Lantern does not support on 64 GB cards, unless you first install it on a 32 GB card.

So, I did want I didn’t want to do; I backed up my family photos on my external hard drive and formatted the 32 GB card. Once this was completed, I then installed the latest Canon firmware and Magic Lantern software on the card. I was then able to repeat the process on the 64 GB card.

By 3 pm on Sunday afternoon I was set to go, but exhausted by all the technological twists and turns. As a result, I decided to start preparing my weekly update.

As a friend noted, the Updates are created on Sunday and not Monday, but once the filming, editing, rendering, and loading are finished, I would run the risk of missing a Sunday deadline. So, the Updates are posted on Monday.

Next week, I will need to do my calculations for how often the camera should take a picture, then what should be the proper light exposure and film speed settings.

Once the filming is finished, I can then convert the digital photos into a format that is acceptable for my film-making software. This will complete the work on this aspect of the project.

I will do a test using time-lapse photography, likely a melting ice cube. I will post the results to the blog next week.


P.S., thanks you to everyone who provided feedback.  I am pleased to read that the sound on my videos is improving, and that the reflection in the Tim Horton’s window provides an interesting effect.

Monday’s Update for March 10th, 2014

A weekly review of art related activities.

This week:

1.) Expressing the history of Hamilton’s Cork-Town in art and film

2.) The aftermath of the 27 Bold Street Fire

3.) Learning how to sew with my daughter

1. Expressing the history of Hamilton’s Cork-Town in art and film

History tends to record the rich and powerful. Rich people who can afford to own land and construct significant buildings; and powerful people who can make decisions that affect history. If you are not rich or powerful, then you live your life in the shadow of others.

Hamilton House with Car

Hamilton House with Car

My family came to Hamilton as blacksmiths and lived in very small, detached, houses. Prior to the 1940s, these homes tended to be only four rooms: kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms – no matter what the size of the family. Given the confined living spaces, social life usually occurred  outside the home: on the streets; in the theatres; or at the bars.

As an aside, this is why I find the demolition of Hamilton’s historical buildings so sickening; not only are they destroying history, but they are destroying my family’s history.

Augusta Street

Augusta Street

Why I find Cork-town so interesting is because a bunch of people came from a distant land and settle into Hamilton.  They have very little wealth and were forced to make homes on lands that no one else wanted.  Despite the odds, they succeeded in making a new community that we still remember.

The challenge, however,  is to find a way to approach the topic. As with everything, there is a lot more information about Montreal or Toronto, then there is about Hamilton. Last year, I was seized with the idea of Hamilton as a port town in the 1840s and how the Irish arrived by sail or steam. Unlike Hamilton, New York City has these wonderful photos of the Irish from the 1850s onwards.

1855 Irish disembarking at NYC

1855 Irish disembarking at NYC

So, last year, I did a lot of research and worked up several sketches, but nothing gelled.

Port Hamilton - 1880s

Port Hamilton – 1880s

This year, I decided to create a short film on Cork-Town.

On Sunday, I traveled around the streets in Cork-Town and filmed various locations and buildings.

Since I have only been working with my DSLR for less than three months, the results will not be award winning. Nevertheless, I hope I can reveal something of history of Cork-Town, and particularly where things once stood. The history of Hamilton is so hard to grasp when the landscape has changed so much.

2. The aftermath of the 27 Bold Street Fire

On Sunday, I also took time out to visit 27 Bold and see how things are shaping up. The building looks worse in daylight.

Lots of people were stopping and looking at the building. While to my eyes it looks beyond repair, I believe the owners are going to try and save the building. Three cheers to property owners who care about history.



There continues to be fund-raising efforts to help the residents who were displaced by the fire. In addition to the First Credit Union and Jason Farr efforts to raise money, there are two events at local pubs. I also believe there is also a crowd-sourcing fund raising effort.

Over the past several days, I have been working on some rough sketches for a potential painting. Hopefully, I can devote more time to this project after I complete the Cork-Town film.

The blogger of Not My Typewriter wrote a nice follow-up piece on the 27 Bold Street Fire with some good photos. I recommend that you check out her posting.

3. Learning how to sew with my daughter

My 7 year old daughter is quite crafty, and she has expressed an interest in sewing. So, when I was experimenting with lino and woodblock prints on fabric last year, I came across the fantastic work of the Beehive Craft Collective and the James Street North sewing store called “I Love Needlework.”

This past Friday, I arranged for a private session for my daughter with Liz, one of the original members of the Beehive Craft Collective.

We had a great time and Liz treated my daughter with a great deal of patience and respect. My daughter is a frustrated dog lover (Dad has allergies), and Liz helped her create a dog themed pillowcase.

Now, my daughter knows how to use a sewing machine and is keen on starting new craft fabric projects.

If you are looking for something that is fun and crafty, then I would strongly recommend the I love Needlework at 174 James Street North.

Christoph Benfey

Photographer & Director

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Chris Erskine - postings of art related activities


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