By Brian McHattie, Ward 1 Councillor
All parts of Hamilton have rich histories, reflected by the significant number of important heritage buildings and streetscapes. These resources really enhance our quality of life. They represent a view into the everyday life of our ancestors, while giving us direction for the future evolution of healthy neighbourhoods.
Our city has been active in heritage conservation over the years with 246 individual properties (fourth most in Ontario) and seven heritage conservation districts (third most in Ontario) currently designated. Still, it is too easy to take the heritage character of our downtowns and neighbourhoods for granted. Much still needs to be done!
When amalgamation occurred in 2001, lists from all six municipalities were compiled into a daunting inventory of 7,000 potentially significant heritage properties.
This list was prepared by municipal heritage staff and keen volunteers across Hamilton-Wentworth. Although the list is large, we know that there are additional properties out there. In the Ainslie Wood/Westdale neighbourhood, amazingly there were only 12 properties on the list. A quick search by local citizens found other interesting properties for consideration.
In 2010, city staff began studying 1,000 addresses in old downtown Hamilton. The results of that project will be before city council in December 2013 and it is anticipated some 700 of those properties will be added to the register of heritage properties, providing 60 days of protection should owners request a demolition permit.
Immediate protection through the register is important and provides time for good planning to occur – in some cases properties will be preserved as they are, while others may be best conserved through adaptive re-use developments.
The downtown Hamilton project will give us direction for tackling the remaining 6,000 properties on the list.
The reference to “we” refers to a project I am working on to complete this inventory with the city’s municipal heritage committee, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the Head of the Lake Historical Society, neighbourhood associations and heritage societies in Dundas, Ancaster, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Stoney Creek and Hamilton Mountain. This is a large task, but one that I believe strongly that citizens can take on!
We will be shortly conducting citizen workshops to provide training on the methodology used to evaluate individual properties. The 6,000 properties will be divided into neighbourhoods and wards.
The evaluation work undertaken by trained citizens will be funneled back to city council via the municipal heritage committee. Council will be called upon to add qualified properties to the register.
If you are interested in playing a hands-on role in conserving Hamilton’s history and heritage, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the April 2013 workshop that kick-started the project, please visit my website at brianmchattie.ca.