Hamilton Ontario’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Cock your head to one side and squint and you’ll see its objects, architecture and people in a totally different light than if you were to tilt to the other side and cross one eye. You can either look at it with hope and curiosity, wondering at its story, or you can look down at the Tim Horton’s littler in the gutter and scrinch up your nose at the man in holey jogging pants, scratching his unmentionable parts and mumbling something about the government planting wires in his head.
Hamilton is what it is and can’t pretend to be otherwise. It makes no claims of being “The Greatest City in the World” as some try. It couldn’t. It would never get away with it. It’s blue collar to the core. Steel town. Hammer town. Tim Hortons Town.
I love this place. Behind the inner city grit, it’s got 22 waterfalls and more compassionate social workers than you could shake a muddy stick at.
Hamilton is where small town kids come to get away to the “Big City”, so it’s a big city made up of small town people. I remember teeny town, Ontario. Every teenager in Dunnville wanted to run away… not to Toronto, but to Hamilton. I think there’s still a small town comfort to it, probably due to its aforementioned runaway inhabitants.
Like a small town, if you come in to this place with a business that acts like it thinks its better than Hamilton, don’t even bother. You won’t last. I can spot a fancy failure from a mile away in this city.
There are distinct personalities to every nook and cranny of my Hammertown. We could sit down and chat about them some time if you’d like, but if I begin to divide them up for you here and now, starting with the basic “Up the Mountain”, “Down the Mountain”, “East Side” and “West Side”, I’d end up getting detailed down to every street and block, pointing out how you can pass from a “good neighbourhood” to a “bad neighbourhood” by walking half a block and turning left instead of right, and how, oddly enough, the “bad guys” generally stick to their block, street, or even their own half-a-street of one block.
At the front of my house we have cute kids playing hop scotch. The back of my house to the left, we have cute kids playing basketball. But half a block to the right, behind my house is a notorious crack-filled apartment building where people are known to get shivved. I’ve never felt unsafe here, unless standing directly in front of that building. Honestly. The street in front of my house is a good neighbourhood.
I live in the center of the city. Corktown. Apparently I’m in the heart of where the Irish settled in Hamilton. We have a lot of pubs and a lot of pubs.
I love this town. I had to choose to settle somewhere as my home base and I’ve been to a lot of places. I chose inner city Hamilton.
A fifteen minute walk to the west of my home will bring you to the actual “City Center”, Jackson Square Mall, the Farmer’s Market and …
The famous Lister Block.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Lister Block. This massive building takes up an entire city block and was once a stately and impressive center of business. Downtown was once what you’d picture a city’s downtown should be. A lot of that hustle and bustle was due to the Lister Block.
As photographer, Isaac J. S. Cumbo writes in his flickr page:
The Lister Block was erected by Joseph Lister on the corner of King William and James Streets in Hamilton in 1886. Soon after its completion it became one of the most desirable central business locations in Hamilton. The building was considered modern for its time, It had a boiler house, new methods of heating, and elevators.
In 1922, an arcade was erected. The original building burnt down in a violent fire in 1923, and the present building was erected in 1924
When the building was occupied, the four upper floors housed offices, while the fifth floor was occupied by professional tenants, such as physicians, dentists, chiropractors, and beauty specialists. The sixth floor was occupied by offices.During the 1970’s , with the completion of the new city hall the focus of civic and cultural activity began to shift from the Lister Block, causing financial difficulties for its tenants. By the early part of the 1990s, eviction notices were issued to all the tenants of the Lister Building. Since then it has remained abandoned, in a constant state of deterioration.
As long as I’ve known of its existence I’ve heard rumors that someone is finally going to do something with the block. A simple Google search will find you people who love the block, hate the block, want to save the block, rebuild it, or tear down/rebuild/turn upside down and plant a hockey team inside of it. There are so many ideas and dreams and rumors of hopeful, wealthy investors making offers to the city. But for some reason it’s just never happened. Every once in a while new boards go up over the windows or doors, but no real action ever takes place. I’ve heard it’s the city’s red tape holding things back. But these are all just rumors.
I want to get inside. I want to explore. I want to dream up new uses for this block and find remnants of its past life.
I find it haunting and ironic that what used to be home to big business and doctors’ condos is now probably home to squatters and the mentally ill. How quickly tides can turn. How quickly wealth can turn to poverty.
Take a look at the following photo blogs, flickr pages and websites full of poetic images and tell me…
What would you do with the Lister Block?
Welcome, Family, Friends and Enemies! It’s been a long time coming (about four years), but my site is finally refreshed and updateable.
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