Archives: demolition

studebaker

When I used to work in the North End I would sometimes bike between the Bennetto and Keith neighbourhoods crossing over the tracks at Victoria Avenue. Taking a few neighbourhood side streets, to avoid the industrial highway of Burlington Street East, I would always pass by a huge old abandoned factory. You would’ve seen it too if you’d ever driven down that way.

On Victoria Avenue North past the General Hospital and just before Burlington Street East you would’ve seen the old Studebaker factory. It’d be hard to miss. It was a 4 block monstrosity of a factory, where in all honesty at least 3 football fields could’ve fit inside its 7.5 acre lot. I used to marvel at it every time I passed by.

photo taken from www.studebakerhistory.com

 

Like many of the older factory and industrial spaces tucked into Hamilton’s landscape this one too had been empty for some time. The last Studebaker to be rolled off the production line at this factory was in 1966.

Studebaker 1946 -image from www.curbsideclassic.com

 

image from www.cursideclassic.com

 

Recently there was some talk of the space being repurposed as a film studio (would’ve been awesome). But as per the fate of many of these industrial relics, it is currently in the process of being torn down. A new industrial complex will be built in its spot. (for more info see an article from The Spec here).

Just last week I paid my respects to that old factory. It is currently being torn down to the ground into a rubble of red Hamilton bricks. I was able to snap some photos of whatever reminants of it that remained.

In its former industrial incarnations it housed production for everything from Otis elevators to the classic Studebaker -it was even used a weapons factory during World War I and II!

the studebaker factory getting plowed down to the ground

I was happy to note that the corner portion of the building will remain intact to be a repurposed as part of the new industrial development.

Not to mention, I was pleased to see that it wouldn’t end up as just another brown field like the one directly across the street from the Studebaker lot.

 

Hamilton, the times they are a changing.

 

 

 

city motor hotel

When there’s a building slated for the demolition in Hamilton — and these days there have been a lot — I can’t help but reflect on the history, the architecture and the reminder of an era that is no more that is being knocked to the ground.

In the case of the City Motor Hotel in Hamilton’s east end, slated for expropriation and demolition, I get lost in daydreams of parties, banquets and cocktail hours when things were swinging à la Miami Beach-style some 50-plus years ago.

Back in the ’60s, car culture was hitting it big, highways were expanding, and cityscapes were evolving and sprawling to make room for the massive appeal, convenience and ever-growing popularity of the automobile.

With this, came a shift in how people moved from place to place, where they went and how they’d go about their business. Before personal automobiles became common, most people travelled to destinations by train and, when requiring a night’s accommodation, stayed at a hotel downtown, making use of the surrounding amenities to occupy their time.

But by the ’60s, downtowns were no longer considered a convenient rest stop for drivers on the way in and out of cities. People wanted to pull their cars directly up to the place they were staying and indulge in other new modern fancies of the era such as TV, air-conditioning and perhaps a luxurious outdoor pool. Thus came the growing popularity of motor hotels. In the ’60s these motels were affordable, modern and classy. Every city or town had at least one.

Growing up in Burlington, I remember the Town and Country Motel on Plains Road and the Riviera Motel over by the lake.

With the cityscape and land-use around them evolving, many of these motels are no longer on the edges of town. They often seem stuck in the past, declining in stature exponentially with every decade that passes.

These old monuments to the automobile’s golden age won’t remain forever.

Take for example the old City Motor Hotel on Queenston Road in Hamilton. It has most certainly seen better days and is on track to be expropriated by the city and demolished.

The City Motor Hotel has been notoriously labelled as a hot-bed of prostitution, drug-dealing, drug-use and other crime. Just the other day, I heard there was a stabbing. The owner sold it about 10 years ago, but is back in possession as the main mortage holder. At last report, the city is moving ahead with expropriation.

But I find myself fantasizing about a developer who might save the hotel, refurbish the kidney-shaped pool, and restore the hotel rooms back to mint 1960s vintage glory.

It could be a concept motel — a real throwback to the ’60s with Mad Men-themed parties, room rentals for fake proms, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and DJ nights with swinging ’50s and ’60s music.

It could be Hamilton’s little taste of an arty novelty boutique hotel similar to ones you might find in Palm Springs, Miami or L.A.

I know it’s a far-fetched idea, but what can I say: I love to dream.

Who knows what the fate of the City Motor is.

In the meantime, stop by, collect a memory or two, snap your photos and have a daydream before the hotel is no more.

 

This article was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, October 20th 2012. You can see the article here.

 

schools out forever

What is up with all the downtown Hamilton schools that have been sold off, boarded up, and demolished?  It seems like there are more schools sold and closed than I can count on my two hands.  There’s the Stinson Street School, coincidently bought and recently redeveloped by Harry Stinson, who by the way developed the infamous Candy Factory Lofts, which spearheaded the urban revitalization on Queen west in Toronto way back in 1993.  For the most part I’m happy to see when gorgeous buildings in Hamilton, like the Stinson School, remain intact and are simply refurbished for their new life as lofty living spaces.

Of the downtown Hamilton schools that have closed there’s Scott Park, 220 Dundurn, Allenby, Tweedsmuir, Robert Land, Gibson,  and Fairfield schools, all of which were sold by the public board since amalgamation in 1998 (and those are just the ones downtown!).  I know that this partially reflects the declining enrollment that many school boards across Ontario are seeing, but I also think it has something to say about the expansion of new subdivision continued urban sprawl, and flight to the suburbs, which are now all part of the larger amalgamated Hamilton.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a few of these schools after their sale from the board, while they’ve been in transition between owners.

One rainy day I visited the old Gibson school.  It was a little eerie walking into all the empty classrooms, many of which had little reminders and remnants of its former life as a full on school.

I love the old school buildings in Hamilton.  I have a sentimental feeling associated with them, mostly because they are beautiful but also because I feel like they just don’t make buildings as grand anymore.

It can be really sad to see such beautiful old schools emptied, abandoned and boarded up.  I really hope that this school gets put to good use, and some life gets put back into it.  Smashed and boarded up windows really does nothing for the moral of a neighbourhood and city.

*Old Gibson School, 601 Barton St. east, Hamilton

 

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