Hermitage – #HamOnt Permits Say No!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – The Heritage Permit Review Sub-Committee said no to the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s proposal to demolish the majority of the Hermitage Ruins that is located in Ancaster, Ontario.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority wanted to reduce the surviving walls of the 1855 Mansion to a height of 3 feet.  The HCA expressed concerns over public safety; from falling stones to people climbing the walls and then falling.

The Authority was also concerned about the cost of restoring the structure. They were unwilling to invest more money in the designated heritage structure than the current proposal of $150,000 to $200,000.  The same amount that it would cost to completely demolish the mansion.

At the meeting, it was also revealed that the HCA would also refuse greater restoration efforts even if private money available.

The members of the Permits Committee have struggled with the fate of the Hermitage Ruins over three meetings.  The committee seemed to be exhausted over the unwillingness of the HCA to do more in saving the designated building and finally voted 4-0 to reject the HCA proposal.

The issue now moves to the Heritage Committee, assuming the HCA still wishes to partial demolish the mansion.

Chris Erskine



Hermitage Ruins Not History Yet!

The Hermitage Ruins have a little more time before the future is decided.

The Permits sub-committee was to hear the request by the Hamilton Conservation Authority to demolish most of the surviving walls to a height of 3 feet.  Apparently, more people wanted to attend the meeting, so the meeting has been re-scheduled to May. Hopefully, the HCA will use the time to reflect on the value of the property and decide to do a proper restoration as their consulted had suggested.


Hermitage Ruins, Hamilton (Ancaster), Ontario
Hermitage Ruins, Hamilton (Ancaster), Ontario

Chris Erskine




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 the 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

#HamOnt #Builtheritage Inventory Project

On December 2nd, I attended the second public meeting of the Downtown Built Heritage Inventory project at the Workers Art and Heritage Centre at 51 Stuart Street.

Prior to amalgamation, each region had complied its own listing of buildings that were considered architectural and or historical significant.  Since amalgamation, no systematic review the list of approximately 8,000 buildings has been done.

As a first step, the City has directed staff to conduct a pilot project of the downtown core.  An area covering the four original districts: Corktown, Durand, Beasley, and Kirkendall.  This created a list of about 800 buildings of interest.

In July, the City staff asked for feedback on what qualities were remarkable about different areas within the original 1846 boundaries.  For example, the significance of the Gore, the Civic Area, and major roadways like James, Main, and King.  This feedback helped to shape the criteria for selection and evaluation of potential buildings.

The meeting on Monday reported that a methodology had been accepted and that staff are currently identifying and entering the buildings into a database.  This process should be completed by January 2014 with a report going to City Council in the spring.

In the end, there should be a rationale in place for why each building is on the list.  With this information in hand, the City will have a firm foundation for future discussions.

The City’s website for this project is: www.hamiltan.ca/downtownbuiltheritage. There is also the staff report on the project and the presentation documents. Finally, there is also the City’s video on the project.

#HamOnt #Builtheritage Ok Partial Demolition

Last night, the developer was given permission to demolish the majority of the James Street Baptist Church.

The permit sub-committee, began its discussion around 6:15 pm but didn’t finish until around 8 pm.  At times, the committee members appeared to be under pressure to justify some of their concerns. The loosely chaired meeting range over a number of concerns, including: the possibility of immediate collapse, the need for an independent structural assessment, and how future designs could save more of the church.

For some time, it appeared that the Committee would recommend the hiring of a structural expert with heritage experience.  Despite much discussion, the suggestion suddenly lost support when members were canvassed for a vote.

While the committee did recommend a number of conditions, the essential proposal is to take down everything but the East Towers of the Church.  The East Towers is the portion of the Church that faces James Street South.

The developer indicated during the meeting that he would move quickly with work once approval was given.

Heritage Permit Committee Video – James Street Baptist Church

James Street Baptist Church, Hamilton (Ont).
James Street Baptist Church, Hamilton (Ont).

On Oct 9th, Hamilton’s Heritage Permit Sub-Committee toured the James Street Baptist Church with the Developer’s team of experts. Following this tour, the Committee discussed with the Developer’s team their request for a permit to demolish a portion of the James Street Baptist Church as part of their plan to adaptively re-use of the building.

Joey Coleman, a local independent reporter, live stream the meeting and archived the video on his website (joeycoleman.ca). I would like to express my appreciation for documenting the meeting and making it accessible to the public who could not attend the meeting in person.

Here is a link to his video. I have created a brief outline of the 2.16 hours meeting. The meeting starts at the 45 minute mark and continues to 3:06 hours.

Heritage Permit Committee Meeting of Oct 9th by Joey Coleman

From my perspective, the most interesting aspects of the meeting are Danielle Bowden’s exchange with some of the experts on the Developer’s Team. This occurs at two points: 1:26 to 1:34 and 2:07 to 2:13.

I also found the general discussion between the developer’s team and the Committee very interesting, particularly with regards to what information should be expected from them when putting forward a request for a partial demolition of a heritage designated building (2:13-3:06). As a result of this discussion, the Commission postponed the decision on the permit until Wed, October 23rd, 2013.

Brief Outline of the Meeting:

45.00 minute mark – meeting of the Municipal Heritage Permit Sub-Committee begins

53.00 minute mark – presentation by the developer’s team begins

58.00 minute mark – outline of the structural problems

1.04.00 hour mark – two additional structural concerns: soil and snow

1.12.00 hour mark- outlining how the building should be treated as three components: East Tower, Centre Aisle, and West Tower.

1.14.00 hour mark – outline of what elements the developer wishes to save

1.19.00 hour mark – questions from members of the heritage committee begins

Where does the snow build up?

Does the snow build up on the west side of the east tower?

If you take off the rear portion of the building will the snow still build up?

1.26.00 hour mark – Danielle Bowden asks whether it is possible to fix the structural issues identified by the Developer’s team of experts (1.26-1.34).

1.34.00 hour mark – more questions from different members of the committee

Where did ground soil information come from?

Was the construction normal for the period?

Did you look at St. Patrick’s Church which suffered similar problems and is being successful restored?

1:45.00 hour mark – question why there was not a heritage preservation report and then a discussion over what kind of information the committee should have from the developer.

2:07.00 hour mark – Danielle Bowden question’s the lost of so much of the Jackson Street side of the Church and whether this could be saved (2:07 to2:13).

2:51.00 hour mark – what does the committee what to do and what are their options

3:06.00 hour mark – meeting concludes

Hamilton Sketches

Sketching Central Public School
Sketching Central Public School

I recently attended a meeting hosted by the City of Hamilton and E.R.A. Architects for The Downtown Built Heritage Inventory Project. The evening was designed to get feedback from the public on three questions.

What I found most interesting about the meeting was their effort to discover what people value about the downtown. It was interesting to hear how people viewed the downtown and how each person had their own list of important buildings.

In large part, people value buildings that they see or visit on a regular basis, whether it is today or in the past.

The old saying, “Out of sight –out of mind” never seem more true than with historical buildings.

So, refresh my knowledge and experience with Hamilton’s past, I have decided to sketch buildings that capture my attention in the downtown.

Central Public School Sketch
Central Public School Sketch