Special Report: Heritage

Letter from Horwath to McMahon: Preserve Gore Buildings

The Hamilton-Centre MPP has called on Ontario's Culture Minister to intervene and protect 18-28 King Street East from a Council-approved demolition.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 30, 2017

Andrea Horwath, Hamilton Centre MPP and Ontario NDP leader, has written a letter to Ontario Culture Minister Eleanor McMahon asking the Province to intervene and save the heritage buildings at 18-28 King Street East from demolition.

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

Hamilton City Council voted last week to approve a request from the property owner to demolish all of 24-28 and all but the facade of 18-22, despite having voted just three years ago to designated them under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The buildings date back to 1840 and 1876. As Canada prepares to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Hamilton is preparing to destroy two of its remaining pre-Confederation buildings.

Horwath writes, "as we approach the sesquicentennial we should be solidifying our commitment to preserving our heritage buildings for future generations." Challenging the Province's "hands-off approach to protecting historic and culturally significant buildings in Hamilton and across the province," the letter urges Minister McMahon to "take a hard look at this file and come to the table, work with the City of Hamilton to ensure these heritage buildings are preserved."

In 2006, the Province intervened to negotiate the preservation and adaptive reuse of the nearby Lister building, saving it from a Council-approved demolition and contributing $7 million toward the cost of restoration.

Following is the full text of Horwath's letter.

January 25, 2017

Re: Heritage Preservation of 18-28 King Street East, Gore Park -Hamilton

Dear Honourable Minister:

I write to you today because I have watched as successive Ministers of Culture have remained silent when heritage properties owned by private interests are threatened by demolition. I am sympathetic to the challenges often faced by private owners of these properties, however I am also acutely aware of the public interests at play when they are at risk.

It is extremely disappointing that your government fails to engage proactively in the preservation of our Province's built heritage. In many instances it is passionate local residents that take the lead, engage communities and municipal leaders in the effort to designate properties and preserve our history. Sadly the Province of Ontario is absent.

Hamilton has a rich and long history; many of our buildings have been part of the fabric of this city since long before Confederation. The buildings in Gore Park, targeted for demolition, were built in the mid 1800's. 2017 marks Canada's 150 birthday and as we approach the sesquicentennial we should be solidifying our commitment to preserving our heritage buildings for future generations. A job that, of course, becomes more costly over time.

The government's hands-off approach to protecting historic and culturally significant buildings in Hamilton and across the province has resulted in hundreds of heartbreaking demolitions. 18-28 King Street East is a shining reminder of why more must be done to support local heritage preservation efforts.

Minister, I urge you to take a hard look at this file and come to the table, work with the City of Hamilton to ensure these heritage buildings are preserved. Future generations of Ontarians deserve to have the opportunity to enjoy Hamilton's historic downtown. It would be a fitting marker of our country's 150th birthday.

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath, MPP

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.

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