#SavetheGore – A good Mayor can make the difference!

#SavetheGore is possible with the support of the Mayor.

On August 15, 2013 – the blog, Raise the Hammer, noted the inaction of Hamilton City Council to the heritage concerns surrounding the Gore Park buildings.  Several readers commented on the success that Oakville was having with their heritage properties.

Hamilton City Hall
Hamilton City Hall

In response, I wrote the following on August 18th:

My impression is that the current and past Mayors of Oakville have played a vital role in promoting the adaptive re-use of heritage buildings.

As a result, Oakville is becoming a real success story, combining the best of the past with the best of the present.

People often get frustrated with individual councillors for not adopting a wider vision.

This lack of vision shouldn’t be so surprising.

It is natural for councillors to be most concern about their own wards, unless they have a special interest in heritage.

This is why the Mayor’s position is so important.

While the Mayor has only one vote, he or she has the power to promote a vision to council and to the voters in each of the wards.

So, having a pro-heritage Mayor is key.

Unfortunately, pro-heritage voters are spread across the city.

Within each ward, they are unlikely to have the numbers to make a difference at election time (unless it is a close race).

This is why councillors may feel free to ignore their concerns.

The Mayor’s position is different.

All pro-heritage voters can participate in the election of the next Mayor.

Furthermore, the current Mayor does not have a lock on re-election.

Anyone who is proud of Hamilton and wants this City to be great should have no problems with the kinds of visions being discussed on this blog (Raise the Hammer).

It is time for the Mayor to do the right thing.

Saving historical buildings is more than about saving history, it is about a city that actively promotes good transit, strong neighbourhoods and creative industries.

It is time for creative city advocates to remind the Mayor to do the right thing.


Hamilton Sketches – The Kerr Building – 1840s

Hamilton Sketches – The Kerr Building -1840s

The Original Kerr Building - 1840s
The Original Kerr Building – 1840s

By today’s standards, the modest structure on King Street East seems like nothing special, in the 1840s however, it was one of the most powerful money machines in Hamilton.

The pen and ink drawing above depicts the original building we now call “the Kerr Building,” likely constructed around 1846.  Kerr would then buy and extend his business to the building to his left sometime before the end the 1840’s (not shown in this drawing).

Archibald Kerr knew he was building something special: he chose a location that was at the heart of the newly minted city (1846); and he chose to construct his building with stone.  At the time, most buildings were still constructed of wood.

Hamilton suffered from many fires and as a result, there is not much left of our early history.  Really, there is only a handful of pre-1850s buildings left.

After the 1840s, fire codes came into existence and builders were eventually required to use stone or brick.

To my mind, Kerr was trying to make a statement with the Kerr Building.  It showed that he had arrived and was joining Hamilton’s elite society.

The source of Kerr’s wealth was the hundreds of people arriving from England and Europe who wanted to  take advantage of new farm lands opening up to the west of Hamilton.  Arriving with almost nothing, Kerr would exchange their few financial resources for goods they needed to set up a home and farm.  This activity made him rich very quickly.

In 1836, he and his brother, Thomas Cockburn Kerr, formed “A. & T.C. Kerr and Company.”  Ten years later, they constructed the Kerr building on King Street East and then expanded the operations to include the building next door.

In 1850, with new partner John Brown, they opened a branch in London, Ontario. During this same period, he founded the Burlington Bay Dock and Shipbuilding Company to help with his importing of goods.  He also founded the Canada Life Assurance Company with Hugh Cossart Baker Senior in 1847.

So, how wealthy did Archibald Kerr become?

1.)    By the early 1850s, Kerr was living at the former estate of Robert J. Hamilton.

2.)    By 1853, he had built a beautiful home called “Inglewood” on a large piece of land just west of James Street South and below the mountain. The house still exists but the surrounding property has been sold and developed.

3.)    Two years later (1855), Kerr is able to leave the day-to-day operations of the business to his brother and retires to Scotland – leasing a manor house near Edinburgh.

So, after only 10 years, Kerr establishes himself as part of Hamilton’s elite.

Within 20 years, Kerr is wealthy enough to retire to a manor house in Scotland.

To give some perspective to Kerr’s success, this is at a time when most people in Hamilton worked 12 hour days and could only afford to rent a small room or building.

No wonder people called Hamilton the Ambitious City.

Source notes: Some of the above information was drawn from the Dictionary of Hamilton Biography (1981) by Thomas Melville Bailey.

#SavetheGore – Heritage is a good investment for developers

#SavetheGore – Heritage is a good investment for developers

Gore Park Buildings-1
Gore Park Buildings-1

It is a myth that heritage properties are not good investments.  Raise the Hammer just published an article that I wrote reviewing some of the recent research on the topic.  it appears that the developer will only save a few historical elements from the Gore Park Buildings and re-attach them to the new buildings when they are eventually built.

This is an insane situation and I hope you will write the Mayor and demand that he do something about it.

Hamilton Sketches – What Holmstead looks like today

Hamilton Sketches – What Holmstead looks like today.

Looking South on Charles Street to the former estate property of Peter Hamilton.

Charles Street facing South
Charles Street facing South

The Holmstead house and estate would have been located where Charles Street meets Bold Street.  In this photo, the gate to the estate would have been at the end of this street.


Hamilton Sketches – Holmstead

Peter Hamilton, related to George Hamilton, built a log cabin on the lands that would eventually become the Durand neighbourhood.  In the 1830s, he replaced his cabin with a large brick house. The house was later sold and called Holmstead.  The home was demolished in the 1930s.


#SavetheGore Update

Gore Update

Hamilton Councillors Farr and McHattie have gain a promise from the developer to save the historical elements of the store-fronts of the buildings he wants to demolish.

While these councillors are trying hard to save these buildings, the compromise solution is not really a solution.

Raise the Hammer editor, Ryan McGreal, wrote a good article yesterday about the current situation.

I have also written an opinion piece asking why the Mayor and the Ontario Premier are not trying to save these important buildings in the heart of Hamilton.

Gore Park Buildings-1
Gore Park Buildings-1
Gore Park Buildings-2
Gore Park Buildings-2
Gore Park Buildings-3
Gore Park Buildings-3
Gore Park Buildings-4
Gore Park Buildings-4

Please take a few moments to write Hamilton City Council, the Mayor, and the Premier.  Voice your concerns about the future of the Gore.