Downtown Bureau

Save the Tivoli

This may be our last chance to save one of Hamilton's greatest treasures.

By Jason Leach
Published April 04, 2005

Everyone will remember the collapse of the Tivoli Theatre lobby last summer. It was indeed another sad day in a long line of sad days for downtown Hamilton.

Head to the central library some time and take a look at the plethora of photographs showing the amazing buildings that used to line our city's streets.

I wasn't born until the mid-70s, but I'd love to know what was in the water during the 60s and 70s when our city was being ruined. Obviously, citizens didn't seem to mind, since they kept voting in demolition-happy mayors.

I've always thought that apathy and lack of civic pride was a new phenomenon in our city, especially after reading historic articles about 'Steeltown' and 'The Ambitious City'.

Apparently, complacency and apathy had already taken root in the 1960s. Otherwise, we'd still have a gem of a downtown core.

Hamilton used to be the theatre capital of Ontario. Toronto didn't have nearly the number of theatres as Hamilton did, and Toronto was considered too boring and British to host many of the touring shows that came through Hamilton. We were the hot city. We had the facilities, the attitude and pride.

Despite horrible political leadership over the past few decades and even worse citizen apathy that kept returning these suits to city hall, we still have some wonderful buildings and streetscapes in our downtown.

Now the province is telling cities like Hamilton to rebuild from within before spreading over every available piece of farmland in sight, and hopefully the province will actually follow through on this. Lord knows the city won't.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Tivoli auditorium has not been harmed or altered in any way during the recent collapse and demolition.

The city has delayed demolition of the auditorium for 90 days in a bid to find someone or some group willing to buy the property from the Sniderman's.

The city has drawn up four proposals for the reconstruction of the front portion of the site to show any prospective buyers what possibilities exist for bringing this historic theatre back to life.

Kudos to the city for drawing these plans and for making them available. We have them posted on our website and hope that someone will stumble across this information with deep pockets and love of local history.

We used to be theatre town, but the Tiv is the only one remaining. The old Lyric/Century Theatre still stands on Mary street, but plans indicate that the building will be converted into lofts or condos.

Unless a new development includes restoration of the theatre (rumour has it that this very idea is being examined by the building's owners - let's hope it works) the Tiv will be the last one left.

Pass this information on to anyone who may be interested in purchasing the Tivoli site.

Remember how the Tiger Cats found their new owner, Bob Young? A friend told him the team was for sale and bravo, a renewed and fashionable product has been developed at Ivor Wynne.

Let's hope to see the curtain rise once again the Tivoli Theatre.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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