North End Neighbourhood One of Hamilton's Hidden Gems

Notwithstanding uncertainty around the Barton-Tiffany lands, a number of positive developments bode well for the North End.

By Michael Borrelli
Published November 04, 2011

In advance of next Thursday's Evening with Jason Farr at City Hall, Town Halls Hamilton has been working with local neighbourhood associations to highlight some of the issues important to them. These topics will inform the agenda for the event on November 10.

Just north of the the CN rail tracks that run through LIUNA Station and on to Niagara lies one of Hamilton's hidden gems: the North End.

Less than two kilometers north of the City Centre, the North End is home to more than 5,000 residents and some of downtown's most picturesque parks and trails.

Many friends of mine, on visiting Hamilton for the first time, have seen their pre-existing notions of the city's waterfront evaporate when confronted with the natural beauty of Bayfront Park and the West Harbour.

But closer to the core, the disused industrial lands around Barton and Tiffany present a starker background and an emerging local challenge.

Once slated to be the home of Hamilton's Pan Am Stadium, the area now sits mostly abandoned. Some houses have already been razed, and other buildings, like the iconic Rheem factory, are slated for demolition.

At a recent breakfast with some of the members of the North End Neighbours, the local neighbourhood association, the conversation turned to a recent Spectator front page declaring the Barton-TIffany lands a "Dead Zone."

Though the lands aren't formally part of the North End, they're important enough to the neighbourhood that the group recently hosted more than 60 people at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre to discuss the future of the lands.

According to NEN board member Chris Pearson, nearly everyone in attendance wanted the city to follow the Setting Sail plan for Barton-Tiffany. Setting Sail recommends mixed-used intensification for the old industrial area, which Pearson also favours.

"It gets people to live down here. It makes for a vital neighbourhood that will need services, businesses, and other development like LRT."

The plans for Barton-Tiffany are subject to two OMB appeals, a situation that is still developing, but it isn't the only concern on the minds of North Enders.

Christeen Urquhart is a rookie NEN board member and has been talking to her neighbours lately, signing them up to the association one toonie at a time.

She moved to the North End last year and finds residents eager to get involved, having signed up 14 people in one afternoon. "That must be a good sign," she muses, noting that traffic speed, air pollution, and the return of the Picton library branch are concerns she's heard.

Despite the uncertainty around the West Harbour, NEN member Judy Snider lists the good things going on in the neighbourhood: a new GO station is slated to be built on the CN line; the community is connected through the North End Breezes, the monthly newsletter run by a team of volunteers; and, with a new Board at the helm, the NEN is looking at refreshing the organization's strategy.

Over coffee at the Harbour Diner, Chris Pearson hints at that vision. "We want to maintain our integrity as a good place to live and raise a family," he says, "like the City motto: be the best place to raise a child."

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.


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By Malex (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2011 at 11:33:51

Erm, not sure I'd label the old Rheem factory "iconic", as it's nothing special architecturally and its history is far from storied...just another old piece of Hamilton's industrial past, I'm afraid...

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2011 at 12:54:06 in reply to Comment 71031

depends who's doing the iconography:

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2011 at 16:11:15 in reply to Comment 71036

Very cool shots! We need one for Ottawa Street. :)

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 04, 2011 at 17:52:38

I learned recently that I don't live all that far from Mr. Borrelli, and couldn't agree more with his statements about the North End. It's beautiful, walkable, affordable, and filled with families and gardens. The local neighbourhood associations (NEN and Beasley) do amazing work, and the parks are mind-blowing.

Yes, it's true. Life does exist north of Barton.

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted November 05, 2011 at 09:01:38

I'm an expat Torontonian who bought property in the North End. I couldn't believe I could get such cheap real estate so close to the Lake. My coworkers think my neighbourhood is "seedy" (their word) but I love it down here. It's a community. I know and socialize with a number of my neighbours (and we are all very very different), and that is an experience I NEVER had in TO. I love the North End.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted November 05, 2011 at 14:58:07 in reply to Comment 71048

I remember when my wife (future wife at the time) first came to Hamilton and we took a walk down to the Pier4 area. We were heading north on Ferguson and she said to me, “Oh, we are going to the wrong side of the tracks now.” Then after about five blocks in, she said, “Oh, we live on the wrong side!"

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By Shawn Selway (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2011 at 22:19:10 in reply to Comment 71031

No, it's nothing special architecturally, but its quite typical and it's location is special. It is one of three buildings, all still present, that housed the shops and offices of Hamilton Bridge and Tool, later Bridge and Tank. Nothing wrong with the steel frame structure, huge freespan interior volumes, easist thing in the world to adapt as there are no walls etc to remove, and there's nothing planned for that site, so why destroy it?

As for storied, sure is. Just for starters, in this building or next door, the tunnel digging shield for the St Clair River rail tunnel was built. Serious engineering first. Made the cover of Scientific American in 1890. Look here

For the full story, check the Historic American Engineering Record report, here

One more, of many: Hamilton Bridge did the steelwork for the Bloor Viaduct. For lots of very cool construction photos, look here

Viaduct figures in Ondatje's Skin of a Lion. Literally storied.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted November 08, 2011 at 17:25:43

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By Waterfront Fan (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2011 at 22:04:03

It really is a shame that the Waterfront Plans have been under appeal for almost a decade. Hopefully these issues are resolved soon and local investors will finally have an opportunity to start with the commercial development this area lacks. BTW, went to Harbor Diner yesterday...Killer Seafood Soup!

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