Special Report: Heritage

Reasons to Designate 18-28 King East as Heritage Buildings

The buildings were constructed between 1840 and 1876 are regarded as 'integral components to the King Street East streetscape and the character of the Gore area'.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 28, 2012

Hamilton photographer Kyle McKeown contacted the City of Hamilton to ask for more information on the history of the buildings at 18-28 King Street East, which are currently slated for demolition.

18-28 King street East (RTH file photo)
18-28 King street East (RTH file photo)

Michelle Sergi, community planning and design manager in the City's planning department, replied with this information about the buildings:

18-22 King Street East

18-22 King Street East are two three-storey stone buildings built circa 1840 and designed by the architect William Thomas. Early occupants were Archibald and Thomas C. Kerr, who established their successful wholesale dry goods business there as early as 1848.

Architect William Thomas was considered a key figure in Canadian architecture, designing important buildings throughout Ontario. The buildings are a representative example of Renaissance Revival architecture dating to the pre-Confederation period.

The buildings retain their original architectural features on the upper levels of their front façades and are among very few pre-Confederation stone commercial buildings remaining in Hamilton.

24 King Street East

24 King Street East is a four-storey building constructed in 1875-6 for James A. Skinner. Skinner was a crockery merchant who opened his "China Palace" at another location around 1850 and the subject building was built as an expansion.

James A. Skinner and Co. was recognized as the largest importer of crockery, glassware, etc. and largest shippers to Manitoba, British Columbia and the Northwest. Later, Minden's Ladies Wear operated in this location between 1924 and 1951.

The building was originally designed and constructed in the Victorian Style of architecture. Several alterations have been undertaken to the building and only the brick façade (painted), three window openings on the fourth level and the cornice and brackets remain.

28 King Street East

28 King Street East is a four-storey building constructed in 1874 for William H. Glassco & Sons to house their furrier business. The building housed a large cold storage vault that was considered to be advanced at time.

G.F. Glassco & Co. operated in this location until 1931 and a succession of other furrier businesses subsequently operated out of the building.

The building's composition, design and materials provide a representative example of Victorian architecture. At the time of its construction, the building was less elaborate than the buildings on either side; however, the building has retained most of its original architectural features on the upper levels of its front façade.

All four buildings face Gore Park and are integral components to the King Street East streetscape and the character of the Gore area.

Wilson-Blanchard, which owns the buildings, plans to demolish them in 2013. In October, the developers floated a proposal to construct a new condo development in the block bounded by James, King, Hughson and Main that would include a grocery store and multi-level parking garage fronting on to King Street.

The building at 30 King Street East was demolished in May 2011 and the site has sat empty since that time, despite the developer's proposal at the time to turn it into a patio for an adjacent coffee shop.

Missing tooth at 30 King East (RTH file photo)
Missing tooth at 30 King East (RTH file photo)

The Gore Park Master Plan envisions a pedestrian plaza on the south leg of King Street, which would provide ample surface area for patios. A pilot project this past summer was a great success at drawing people to enjoy their lunches in the park.

A grocery store and multi-level parking lot would destroy the pedestrian character of Gore Park, the centre of the downtown core, and effectively render the master plan moot.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

34 Comments

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 07:12:31

So, let me get this straight.

18-22 King: the upper level facades are original (no mention of the building inside). 24 King: Painted front facade and a couple of windows are original (no mention again of the interior) 28 King: About the only building that is more or less the same as it was when built originally

Why is there such uproar about this again?

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By TrollPoison (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 08:27:20 in reply to Comment 84488

*ignore*

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By TrollPoisonAntidote (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 13:59:56 in reply to Comment 84496

*ignored*

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 07:47:11 in reply to Comment 84488

Go sit in the corner and put your dunce cap on. Have you forgotten the lessons you learned in the previous threads?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 05:20:21 in reply to Comment 84494

?

Please elaborate.

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By Troll_Poison (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 09:09:15 in reply to Comment 84571

Never mind. We forgot. Trolls don't learn.

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By Troll_Poison_Antidote (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 19:45:37 in reply to Comment 84577

Cool story bro, do you ever post anything constructive?

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By Woah (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 07:29:59 in reply to Comment 84488

STOP THE PRESSES! We just discovered that old buildings change over time as people adaptively reuse them for new things. If anything that should tell you these buildings ARE still relavent today, all they need is the next phase in adaptive reuse. Heritage isn't about freezing something so it never changes. It's about keeping continuity with the past while getting ready for the future. It's about saving and reusing the energy and material that went into a building instead of throwing it away. It's about letting a place be itself instead of wiping it clean and dropping a sterile box on it that looks like every other sterile box. It's about what makes a place unique. If we get rid of that, we get rid of what makes downtown Hamilton worth caring about.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 15:03:12 in reply to Comment 84493

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 16:26:34 in reply to Comment 84512

For someone who pretends to not care about downtown you sure spend alot of time writing about it.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 09:58:20 in reply to Comment 84516

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 30, 2012 at 10:33:18 in reply to Comment 84556

I try not to respond to trolls, but you've caught me at a weak moment.

Just for fun, since you've demonstrated amply that the evidence is irrelevant to your particular basket of prejudices, let's test your hypothesis against what we actually observe downtown.

It turns out that the parts of downtown that have been the most successful at attracting new investment, new people moving in and new visitors are precisely the parts of downtown that we did not raze and replace with new buildings: James North, James South, the parts of John North that weren't razed, and the parts of John South that weren't razed.

King Street through downtown is not thriving, but it's doing much better than Main Street through downtown, which was mostly razed.

I don't know what's sadder about your persistent hangups about the lower city: that they so aptly represent Hamilton's postwar strategy to renew the core, or that you continue to hold onto them so long after everyone who actually studies urban revitalization has acknowledged that they have been an utter failure at achieving their objective.

Cities all around the world are recognizing - and proving through example - that urban city centres thrive when they are designed and regulated according to the urban principles of density, diversity, proximity, walkability and innovation.

Yet you remain like the Dwarves in C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle, hiding stubbornly inside the stable while a wonderful transformation takes place all around you and right before your eyes.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-12-30 15:49:44

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By tl;dr (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 11:07:08 in reply to Comment 84557

tl;dr version:

Go back to your parents' basement and let the adults handle the urban renewal.

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By Troll_Poison (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 15:08:07 in reply to Comment 84512

ignore

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By Designee (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 07:19:48

"Heritage data have been compiled for the former municipalities and townships now incorporated in the amalgamated City of Hamilton. These data include information on properties designated under Parts IV and V of the Ontario Heritage Act, properties listed in the municipal inventory for buildings and cultural heritage landscapes, the Canadian Inventory of Historic Building, and registered archaeological sites. Each volume also includes an introductory discussion of the data contained in the volume, and an outline of how the specific resources are managed by the City."

http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/PlanningEcDev/Divisions/Planning/CommunityPlanning/HeritagePlanning/ResourcesHeritageVolumes.htm

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:07:13

Recent news reports suggest that Wilson Blanchard will probably include a supermarket in its development plan and has received interest from some national supermarket chains. It is hoped that they can collaborate in such a way as to preserve the 19th century buildings on King Street East.

For example, most of the large, modern supermarkets now contain an in-store bakery, a cheese counter, a deli/coffee shop, a flower shop, and a pharmacy. One might consider the possibility of renovating and repurposing the first floor of each of the five existing buildings at 18-28 King Street East to become “specialty shops” with Victorian-style street signage as part of the new supermarket. Outdoor patio seating could be provided outside the deli/coffee shop and the bakery. Sliding glass doors could be installed at the back of each building leading into the main supermarket.

The open space where 30 King Street East used to exist could be fashioned into a modern or faux vintage lobby providing direct access and egress to and from the new Blanchard complex. An elevator and hallway system could be built to service the back end of the renovated upper floors of 18 to 28 King Street East for use as offices for the supermarket or other businesses.

Of course, the end result will be up to Wilson Blanchard, its financiers and the supermarket chain which eventually becomes involved in the project. One hopes that Fortinos, which has been in the grocery business in Hamilton for over fifty years and recently re-established its corporate headquarters in this city, expresses an interest in collaborating with Wilson Blanchard on this type of project.

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By evidence (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:52:59 in reply to Comment 84501

Can you link to these "recent news reports" please?

Or are you talking about the tall tale that was spun when the "plan" (dream) was first presented?

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By Over Qualified (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:49:28 in reply to Comment 84501

"Recent news reports suggest..probably...hoped...could...could...could...could...

Of course, the end result will be up to Wilson Blanchard."

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 14:02:03 in reply to Comment 84504

Missed: "One might consider the possibility"

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 28, 2012 at 14:48:57 in reply to Comment 84510

Speculating and dreaming is not going to make this happen.

I interviewed Blanchard for the December Hamilton Magazine piece: http://www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/hamilt...

I'll leave it to the readers to determine if these are the words of a man with a visionary plan.

After the salutation, the first words out of his mouth were:

Well we don't have a real solid plan there so...

Which set the tone for the entire conversation. Here are some more choice quotes from the full interview.

When asked about timeframe for construction and tenanting a new development:

I'm not optimistic that we'll have construction let alone demolition within, you know, a long time. I mean the only reason we're doing anything now is because interest rates are low...

When asked why the current buildings should come down when there's "no solid plan" yet:

If we take them down and work away at planning, that's not gonna be a problem because when we finally do get a plan and a tenant and financing, we'll be able to move forward quickly, so why not?

When asked about his vision for what would face Gore Park:

Potentially a grocery store, or a Target, or whatever. I don't know

When asked whether he would consider developing facades with narrower storefronts (like the ones that will be replaced) and smaller businesses:

It has to be a large tenant because those small tenants can't afford the kind of rent that is going to have to be charged for a brand new building like that. [...] I'd rather just get one cheque for $250,000 a month or something than 50, 70, 80, 200 cheques.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-28 15:58:24

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 15:34:30 in reply to Comment 84511

A Target??? Is he for real? Big boxes finally take over the Gore...it was only a matter of time in this one-trick pony town. It was a crappy trick the first time we saw it, yet it's all we get over and over.....

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 28, 2012 at 15:57:05 in reply to Comment 84514

or.. "whatever, I don't know"

Some vision.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 19:32:30 in reply to Comment 84515

I'm not one of these guys who expends lots of energy trying to fight every single demolition proposal that comes along, but Gore Park?? For real?? As backwards as this city is, I never thought I'd see such a proposal. Especially with all the examples of other cities who have saved historic facades and put them back up intact. Demolition should be prevented by all means by city hall.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 05:20:01 in reply to Comment 84519

I'm not one of these guys who expends lots of energy trying to fight every single demolition proposal that comes along

Right, you do it for things like 2-way conversion, bashing the suburbs, etc.

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By Troll_Poison (registered) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 09:12:29 in reply to Comment 84570

*ignore*

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By Troll_Poison_Antidote (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 09:17:10 in reply to Comment 84579

*ignore*

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:26:19 in reply to Comment 84501

It would be nice to hear directly from Blanchard that this is at least being contemplated.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 20:44:47

http://www.hpl.ca/articles/history-gore-park-13

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 21:15:40

This excerpt from an article titled “History and condos collide in downtown Hamilton” by Paul Wilson on the CBC Hamilton website on Oct 23/12 is primarily what led to my post stating that a supermarket will probably form part of the Blanchard development:

“Blanchard would like to knock those buildings down and put up something new. He’s talking about a condo tower, parking and even a two level 60,000 square foot grocery store- even though Hamilton is about to finally get a full-sized supermarket in Jackson Square next spring, part of a new chain based in the GTA.

“There’s always room for more.” Blanchard says. “We’re working with national chains…there is some interest.”” http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/talk/story/20...

The remainder of my post was based only on the hope that the supermarket chain chosen to become the prime tenant in the Blanchard project will see the importance and the cachet of integrating the 19th century buildings into its supermarket concept and begin to drive the project in that direction. That is why Fortinos was referenced in my post: as the national or regional supermarket chain with the deepest historical connection to Hamilton, perhaps it would be more interested than the other supermarket chains in integrating these buildings into its plan to some extent. These buildings will only survive in whole or in part if the prime tenant wants them to survive.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-12-28 21:19:48

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 28, 2012 at 22:57:06 in reply to Comment 84522

I'm all for being optimistic. But we have to weigh the reality.

We have no way of holding him to the story he told the CBC once the buildings come down.

Based on his responses to me in November, it would appear his October tale was nothing more than a beautiful story for the media.

There's no grocery chain, there's no tenant, there's no plan.

Why bother speculating?

We can't afford another empty lot. Especially not one facing the gore.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-28 22:57:38

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 23:09:42

Let's not forget, he and his partner stood there arguing in front of the media and their architect about what MIGHT get built someday. I don't understand why the Spec keeps reporting their musings as 'plans' for the Gore. They aren't plans. One guy said 'maybe condos'. The other guy said 'no chance'. And back and forth they went. The Spec and other local media should be ashamed for the complete lack of reporting and journalism on a topic like this.

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By Municipal Feedbag (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 23:34:12

I'm worried that the 'firm' decisions, like demolition permits are testing the local advocacy folks and the tugging at the municipal feedbag to see if anything falls out. The Lister and the stadium and the Mac Downtown Health Campus got tonnes of our bucks- are W/B seeing what they can get out of us on this one? Just askin'.

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By JMorse (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 07:32:09 in reply to Comment 84525

Sure, that's exactly what they're after. Sadly, this may be our only chance to get involved. They know the stakes are too high for the public to ignore. Looks like we'd better hand over whatever they want because I don't think they're bluffing.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2013 at 08:19:20

Positive development?

http://t.co/eqsAa06h

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