Commentary

Mirrors Into Our Past

Reflection is a way to remind future generations of how past experiences made us what we are today.

By Larry Pattison
Published May 09, 2012

Lister Block: Built 1924, Restored 2011 (RTH file photo)
Lister Block: Built 1924, Restored 2011 (RTH file photo)

We are told throughout our lives not to dwell in the past, yet we study history and are fascinated by it. We can look at Lambeau Field in Green Bay or the newly restored Lister Building here in town, and you get an idea of how communities are recognizing not only the importance of the heritage value in their cities structures, but the monetary value in itself in attracting tourism.

We visit cities across the globe much in part with anticipation of taking our own physical and mental images of these things we've read about in our history books. Every city wants these artifacts to encourage world travel to their little space amongst this vast world surface.

We have saved part of the old Revenue Canada Building and even part of the old Harvest Burger seems in early construction, that it will be carried forward as a new building is built in its place.

The western wing of the old Revenue Canada building at Main and Caroline will be integrated into a new development
The western wing of the old Revenue Canada building at Main and Caroline will be integrated into a new development

With Ivor Wynne Stadium, perhaps we already lost long ago what was structurally important and preservable about its past when we renovated the north stands and removed the old Civic Stadium entrance façade that lined Beechwood Avenue, but its history nonetheless is as storied as they come.

Both new structures will most certainly inject a hope and energy into the stale air that has sat stagnant over steel town for far too long. Likely they will both remember their predecessors past with photos or some other memorabilia amongst their interior spaces.

However, we may have to rely on places like HIStory + HERitage or the Hamilton Public Library to dig up these pieces to our past when the dust has settled at 75 Balsam Avenue North and 100 Main Street West.

My favorite aspect of the Board building is the round meeting space facing Main Street. I have always been fond of the entire structure, but now I value it even more through Matt Jelly's save campaign. It saddens me every day that I walk or drive by it, at the thought of it being gone and visually forgotten forever. I won't even go there with Ivor Wynne.

Gone to seed: Dandelions adorn the lawn of the doomed Board of Education building (RTH file photo)
Gone to seed: Dandelions adorn the lawn of the doomed Board of Education building (RTH file photo)

If the entire Board structure must fall and what is built in its place is to be made of entirely glass, is there a way to create a holographic illusion that alludes to the old Board building still existing there? Like the old trading cards where you tilted them in a certain manner and they would appear to move.

Could we make it so that no matter which side of the board building you stand on, the glass portrays - through creativity more than structural physicality - what it was actually like to stand in that spot and admire what was there before.

This futuristic snapshot into the past is likely more possible on a boxy office tower, but the stadium might prove to be a different challenge in trying to portray a similar holographic look back into our past.

What if we erect vast semi-transparent sections of glass at key points around the stadium that offer a similar type of holographic illusion, yet the sections of glass would not only change as people walked by them, the historical snapshots of the old Ivor Wynne would transpose over top of the new structure to show the transformation form old to new.

Perhaps there is also a big yellow button that people could press to even offer a look back to the old Civic Stadium. I would actually love to see the Beechwood Civic Stadium façade incorporated in some fashion, into the design of the new stadium: in a physical sense. Not through an illusion.

By using the imaginations of citizens, fans, students and teachers, the community could guide us in our understanding of the historical importance of these and other structures, and they could help us decide as a city what we feel should be carried forward in some fashion. This could be relayed back to the architects who could assist us in determining what we could carry on in memory, while keeping within our budget.

The memories of these two important structures must live on in physical space, not just among a million other lost online snapshots and blurbs telling the tales of Hamilton's history.

The Lister Building is the perfect example of completely renewing history, and we can look right across the stadium and see how we can moderately remember our past with the reliefs from the original Prince of Whales school that have been placed at the front entrance of the school.

Not to downgrade the historical significance of Prince of Whales, but perhaps the old Board building and the stadium, are deserving of substantially more significant physical reminders of what once stood before and with the stadium, looking back many generations might be what makes the historical carryover from Ivor Wynne more poignant.

If history wasn't so important, it wouldn't be a required course throughout our education. Reflection is a way to remind future generations of how past experiences made us what we are today. The Board of Education building and Ivor Wynne Stadium are without a doubt, historically significant reminders of what has helped shaped Hamiltonians for the past 80+ years.

Let's not dwell, but let's not forget either.

By year's end, these two structures will likely both cease to exist. How can we ensure that their memories rise strong and proud from the ashes from where they both once stood?

Larry Pattison is a local blogger, life-long resident of Hamilton, and father to two amazing girls. You can follow his writing at Shaking the Tree. Larry is a registered candidate for Ward 3 School Board Trustee.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2012 at 12:38:29

And over on Graham's piece:

Another screen lets you select a part of the city near a monument and then it has an interactive timeline that allows you to see pictures taken at the same spot over the past 100+ years. Neat.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted May 09, 2012 at 14:09:55

Get with it guys get over it ..... the Board of Ed is no Lister block the now Board Building is a cheessey building it dose not know if they whanted to go 80s .. or a space ship ... lol that round building is too much lol you whant to save building look at the Lister and the Pegote building and some others like it that worth saving

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 09, 2012 at 14:46:15

Joey Coleman has been covering the demolition permit submission and approval process this past week, for the Board of Education building. Approved.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted May 09, 2012 at 22:15:38

Today the Hamilton Spectator had two stories. One was on the the success of walkable neighbourhoods, and the other was on the closing of downtown schools. These two stories point to why there can be no successful strategy for urban renewal in Ontario cities--the left hand is working to undermine the right hand.

From a political strategy point of view, even if a council that supported the goals of human scale development had been elected, the school board would still be closing schools in the core while building suburban warehouses. So it becomes imperative that school board elections also be won. But by the time the next election rolls around, the schools in core neighbourhoods may be shuttered, the exodus of young families begun, and hopes for downtown renewal stunted.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:03:42

You know I wonder with the Board building, if much of societies shrugging it off as nothing architecturally significant has been in large part because it is not a street wall building like the Lister. The Lister Building is beautiful. Don't get me wrong. I didn't think so before it's restoration but now I see what we fought so hard to save it.

But even now in all it's glory, if Lister was set back like the Board building, would it's presence still be as strong as walking right by it with no choice but to sense it as we pass. We can look over or down or nose to the air, but we are not allowed to ignore the significance of it's beauty.

What if there had been a walkway from the Art Gallery that cut across the front of the building and over to the side of Bay so that you could walk right up close to it without having to walk on the grass? Would that have highlighted it's beauty and made it's significance more notable? What if all that grass (not that I am against blank grassed surfaces, had been used creativity to compliment the Board structure and help bring out more of it's allure.

What value is there really in Lister, if not for James St N, the shops on King William, and the life that exists around it each day and night? How much of the day are people really walking or hanging out around the Board site? Sitting across form it on a bench staring at it in all it's historic glory?

I don't know much about the architect but maybe he or she never amounted to anything significant? Maybe there is no 'era' associated with this design, but as far as I am concerned beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and I know I am not alone in my love for it and the value of it's presence downtown.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:22:05 in reply to Comment 76785

I don't know much about the architect but maybe he or she never amounted to anything significant?

It was designed by Joe Singer, who did a lot of work for the HWDSB (he also designed the Crestwood School, which the Board also plans to demolish). He's still alive, and Matt Jelly interviewed him not long ago.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:46:24 in reply to Comment 76787

Thanks Ryan. I never seen this piece. Must have been too busy celebrating my birthday. :)

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-05-11 11:46:57

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2012 at 20:47:47

Love reading your works and how much you are holistically, maybe more than anyone I've read, into what a beauty Hamilton and area is. Thank you for your writing, as usual.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:58:02

Someone mentioned that during OpenDoors, it was stated that they may reuse part of the interior in the new design, with a glass exterior. Imagine walking through the glass doors, to find this whole other building inside of it. The glass structure is wall to wall Main to Bay to King to AGH, but inside the old Board building in all it's glory, still exists like a world within a world.

A walkway travels overtop of the old board building in the front and back, with the glass structure itself continuing up many more stories. Those walking over these overpassing's get an aerial view of the historic building as they travel across to meetings and such.

The building is now a street wall like we love about Lister. The glass is transparent enough to faintly see the outline of the old Board building during the day but at night, wow. People come downtown to stair through the glass and admire how the old illuminates through the new.

Imagine.

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