18-28 King Street East in the Globe and Mail

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 05, 2013

A timely and informative article by Adrian Morrow in today's Globe and Mail reports on the controversy over Wilson-Blanchard's plan to demolish 18-28 King Street East, the historic Victorian streetwall fronting Gore Park that includes an 1840 building designed by William Thomas.

The article sketches the history of postwar demolitions in downtown Hamilton, pitting the developer, who claims the buildings cannot affordably be restored, against heritage advocates who note that developers always say that when they want to demolish old buildings.

It's easy to see why some Hamiltonians are wary of block-altering developments. Over the decades, swaths of the core have been torn down to make way for inward-facing malls and a fortress-like convention centre that do little to liven up the streets. Other buildings were razed to make way for parking lots, leaving vast, empty spaces in the cityscape.

According to the article, David Blanchard is "open to discussions about preservation" but skeptical:

"There are all kinds of people running around,... trying to tell us what to do," he says. "We'll talk to them. I don't know what good it's going to do and I don't know who's going to pay for it, but we'll talk to them."

Blanchard also insists his plans are only preliminary, which, as the article notes, "is part of the problem:

He is moving to get rid of the buildings without a plan for what will replace them.

Shameless plug: the article also includes a couple of quotes from your humble RTH editor.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted January 05, 2013 at 13:38:45

it's actually King East FWIW.

Well, that article right there gives WAY more actual info than any Spec piece I've read. The Spec keeps talking about Blanchards plans as if they are about to erect a crane. A few coloured boxes were released while he and his partner argued over what, if anything, will ever get built there.

Glad to see a larger media organization give proper context to the story.

Check out the comment section under the article as well. Wow. It's like a different world compared to the comments we see locally.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-01-05 13:40:51

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 05, 2013 at 13:44:00

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 00:06:01

When one is negotiating, they tend to start on a "less optimistic" note.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2013-01-06 00:06:17

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By erskinec (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2013 at 09:50:38

When I was a kid, City Council had this great idea of cutting down the grand old trees in Gore Park and paving over the grass. They wanted to let in the sun and remove the mud. They had good intentions but what they created was a cold concrete parking lot for pigeons. The people never forgot nor forgave that Council. I think alot of them lost their seats in the following election. It appears to me that history is about to repeat itself. I hope the readers of this blog and the related articles are spreading the word on their Facebook, Twitter, Blog and websites. Furthermore, I hope they are emailing City Council and demanding that they say no to demolition.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 11:34:48

It is incredibly easy to sit in an other city and cry over the proposed destruction of old buildings. Especially when you know absolutely nothing about these buildings. As far as I know no one has done any kind of inspection however rudimentary into the state of these buildings. Instead they dismiss the owners contention that the amount of money needed to repair them is beyond the value of the buildings. How would they know? Obviously they don't and simply want to argue the sentiment and emotions of the issue and stay well clear of the facts. I have had some limited experience with century buildings and if someone tells me the foundation is crumbling I have no trouble believing them. In fact I would be somewhat surprised if they told me otherwise. A hundred or hundred and fifty years ago the mortar and cement were at a much lower standard then they are today. Some buildings were built with superior trades people but too many were built with average tradespeople and cheap labour to get the job done as quickly and cheaply as possible. Much like today.

I like to look at a person's record or history before I come to conclusions about their motives and likely future actions. Wilson Blanchard's history of restoring a very large old building right here in Hamilton gives them a little credibility in my mind.

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By Dane (registered) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 23:27:38 in reply to Comment 84751

Wait what? I didn't realize Blanchard was a structural engineer? So what your saying is that no one has determine the building are bad so they are in bad shape. Me so confused.

Listen many people have restored 100 year old buildings. I have been through many. Some structurally unsound. Some things I have noticed; its doesn't take much to fix and two usually there would be some exterior signs or indicators of damage. But in anticipation, I am not a structural engineer. You know though, this would be settled quite quickly if an impartial engineer was sent through. Makes you wonder why Blanchard hasn't shut folks up with that one.

Speaking of record, what buildings did Blanchard directly take part in the restoration?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 22:11:05 in reply to Comment 84751

I'd like you to click on the link below, and see what medieval buildings in Italy look like.,12.659898&spn=0.024555,0.038581&hnear=Pordenone,+Province+of+Pordenone,+Friuli-Venezia+Giulia,+Italy&gl=ca&t=m&z=15&layer=c&cbll=45.955256,12.659883&panoid=n4mDCBD7wtUqPICqY8lMtQ&cbp=12,176.81,,0,-1.48

These were not built with "hard portland".

If you go down (or turn around and go up) that street, you'll see building after building, all similar scale, all right up to the street. No one "tore down" one or two and built something "better". No one complains that they're unsafe, or the spaces aren't large enough to accommodate a grocery store. No one is proposing to tear down half a block of them and build a condo tower.

They're standing the test of time just fine, virtually each and every one has a business in it, and people living above. Some even have cafes that spill out onto the street *gasp*.

Gore park is a three block stretch of our downtown that should be preserved, in a similar manner to the link I've posted, so that future generations can come and marvel at those delightful "old buildings".

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 01:19:33 in reply to Comment 84764

Your are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to mine even though it is diametrically opposed to yours.

I don't think they are standing the test of time. If the foundations are crumbling then there obvious problems.

Something had to be torn down to build the Erin Fairclough Buiding, AGH, CIBC Tower, the tower at King and Catherine,whatever it is called and more. Those are just what comes to mind in a minute and they are all up or down the street. I suspect that very similar buildings that are presently at 18 - 28 King were indeed torn down to make room for these buildings.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 05:41:04 in reply to Comment 84764

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2013 at 09:14:09 in reply to Comment 84770

FYI, plenty of empty building lots in Italy in this city of 50,000 people. The city is thoroughly modern if you go further out, this is their historic "core" complete with their old city hall.

Here's a link to some of the more modern buildings in that same city:,12.65522&hl=en&ll=46.011151,12.657623&spn=0.000238,0.154324&sll=45.962606,12.65522&sspn=0.097609,0.154324&gl=ca&hnear=Pordenone,+Province+of+Pordenone,+Friuli-Venezia+Giulia,+Italy&t=m&z=13&layer=c&cbll=45.962391,12.656568&panoid=Veaq_A91zzhA8hcL85huqg&cbp=12,145.01,,0,-15.62

By the way, as for your "crane" it was doing restoration work, here you see it close up, and it's clearly not on any "building" lot:,12.660585&spn=0.001533,0.002411&hnear=Pordenone,+Province+of+Pordenone,+Friuli-Venezia+Giulia,+Italy&gl=ca&t=m&layer=c&cbll=45.954436,12.660585&panoid=z3BQN3fLxaK8B5ZME8S15g&cbp=12,79.44,,0,-22.68&z=19

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 05:28:13 in reply to Comment 84764

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2013 at 07:58:58 in reply to Comment 84767

"Reality" TV as "evidence"? You've reached a new level.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 01:11:00 in reply to Comment 84772

From the comments I see here it is pretty obvious that many have no idea what housing is like in Europe. I know I was surprised when I went for a visit. I find the show pretty interesting. If you have a problem with it watch something else. The reactions that I have seen on the show pretty much mirror what mine were when I went there. Maybe you are used to a bar size fridge as the main fridge in the apartment but I certainly was. We had relatives visit for a few weeks last year and were amazed by the size, price and availability of single family homes in our fair city. They certainly had never seen anything like it.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 09, 2013 at 09:31:25 in reply to Comment 84905

I find the show pretty interesting. If you have a problem with it watch something else.

If you have a problem with meaningful fact-based dialog, go somewhere else.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted January 08, 2013 at 09:50:18 in reply to Comment 84772

The anecdote he provides of the "American kitchen" is perfectly legitimate. He never said it was "evidence" of anything.

You certainly do have a knack for condesending obfuscation.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 08, 2013 at 10:07:03 in reply to Comment 84814

I did not obfuscate this issue with comparisons to ancient civilizations buried in Europe. We are not building a new civilization on top of those Gore buildings. Blanchard himself has admitted there is no actual redevelopment plan.

Demolition and new construction is not some sort of natural order. It does happen, particularly in places where there's no space to build without demolition. But we have lots of space to build here without tearing anything more down.

My posts are based on facts that I've researched and referenced where possible and necessary. Pardon me if I refuse to accept anecdotes based on television shows as reasonable points for further discussion.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 01:22:19 in reply to Comment 84818

So you want to keep the core as is, have I got that right? So no more whining about intensification there. And no more whining about greenfield development.

You just can't have your cake and eat it too.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted January 09, 2013 at 09:29:23 in reply to Comment 84907

Comprehension fail.

I have repeatedly said we need to intensify both through renovation of existing buildings and creating incentives for construction on our parking lots. Tearing down buildings is simply not necessary here. We've already done that. A lot.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted January 06, 2013 at 23:31:46

Thank you for posting this informative article by Adrian Morrow. It is news to many Torontonians and Hamiltonians, including myself, that William Thomas, the architect who designed two of the Gore buildings, went on to design St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto which is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. The Thomas buildings at the Gore were also built six years before Hamilton officially became a city and about twenty years before the buildings contained in Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto were constructed.

By the way, an article titled "Big turnout for Gore history tour" by Molly Hayes was posted on tonight:

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By Aggi (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 06:29:49

Shame the Globe didn't start caring about Hamilton's architectural heritage earlier. As recently as a decade ago, a potential demolition (or any real ones, for that matter) wouldn't even have merited a shrug from the G&M.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 07, 2013 at 20:19:58 in reply to Comment 84771

in their defense, Hamilton didn't care about it's own heritage or future for decades. Only recently have people begun to take active pride in this place and call out the old boys' club when they make another dumb suggestion.

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By Aggi (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2013 at 06:45:54 in reply to Comment 84783

True. And the Globe simply reflects the zeitgeist. I believe that the paper was caught up in Hamilton's Civic Square zeal just like virtually everyone else at the time.

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By granng (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2013 at 18:18:06

To me, LOL AOA's defensive and denigration of Hamilton's remaining historical core suggests lack of awareness of how deep is the disgust and distress of those who live downtown. We are disgusted that the developer took the sleazy route in applying for the demolition permit when Council isn't sitting, and that our Councillors, mostly suburban, would allow this travesty to slip by.

My understanding is that the permit's a done deal.
That being the case, the only way to stop demolition is to block the machines ourselves.

I'm quite confident that there will be a good crowd turn up for that. :D
Cos this demolition idea is friggen looney toons.

And btw ... we want the

"I know all the heritage people. I knew there would be issues. I don’t know the costs." (Blanchard)

I'll tell you the cost of tearing them down: Your company name will be MUD!
Now ... let's get this done ... teach these guys something about what a LIVABLE downtown looks like. It doesn't look like empty blank highrise facades right against the street!!! That's DEADSPACE!!!

It looks like historical buildings with street presence ... cafes, retail, rooftop restaurants overlooking Gore Park fountain ... places where PEDESTRIANS come
and hang out for a while, enjoy themselves ... and spend money.
And it looks like LIVING SPACE - condo towers are good! Set back from the street, with courtyards between perhaps?
But NOT towers butting right against the street with their stupid blank walls and soulless stares, where beautiful historical buildings now stand, and will be forever mourned, just like the rest of downtown so foolishly destroyed decades ago.
This is not then. We simply CANNOT do that again.

... And I'm really partial to rooftop restaurants lining the Gore. :)

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:09:19

ugh...they voted to preserve the shorter stone buildings, but demolish the two taller white ones. I know people like stone and all, but I LOVE those two tall white ones. Such a shame to know we'll be losing part of our founding heart.

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By bvb borussia (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2013 at 17:21:49

If he has bought and paid for them he can what he pleases. If you think you know better, buy the buildings and do what you want. Until then, stop whining.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 22, 2013 at 19:53:31 in reply to Comment 85398

Then you won't mind me buying the house next to you and turning it into an industrial slaughterhouse.

Or do we agree that you can't just do whatever you want with your property when you live in a society with other people?

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