It was time for the 10th annual Doors Open Hamilton! We narrowly missed it last year, having just begun our Tour that month and catching wind of the event too late. With many of the featured landmarks on our to-do list, I was happy to get to check out the event this year, on the gorgeous day that it was. I made it to two locations – the newly restored Lister Block and 270 Sherman.
I was at Lister Block for Tourism Hamilton’s grand opening during April’s Art Crawl, and I knew I’d have to return. My parents joined me for the day and it was very special for me to share a tour of Lister Block with them, because my mom used to work there, back in the 1970s. It was very nostalgic for her to be back in that building, to walk the same corridor she did every day, on her way up to her office on the fourth floor. She couldn’t get over how the building was restored and was thrilled to see it again. After wandering through Tourism Hamilton’s space in the main lobby, we walked through the hallways and a Doors Open guide was nice enough to take us up in the elevator to the second floor, while pointing out which part of the floor by the elevators on the second floor was from the original structure.
Up on the second floor, there was a photocopy of the Vernon’s Directory from 1956, listing all of the businesses in the Lister Block that year. My mom scanned it to find her office and point it out to me. She also noted that there used to be a hair salon in the Lister building, and pointed out the exact room where she got her hair done on many occasions, even on her wedding day.
My mom also described to me how, from her office window facing James North, she watched the construction of Jackson Square. It’s hard for me to imagine Hamilton without the landmark, and she watched it being built, brick by brick! What an amazing piece of her own personal history, as well as Hamilton’s, and to be able to share it with me now, on my own Tour of the City, was an incredible full circle moment.
After our self-guided tour of Lister Block, we followed a couple of Doors Open staff members outside to join a group to get an official tour. We started at the corner of King William and got a thorough talk on the Lister Block’s history (it was constructed in 1923) and what went into preserving it. The work that went into it is unbelievable and all of the details that needed to be taken into account are astounding. It definitely gave me a new respect and admiration of those in the heritage restoration field.
From there, we continued down King William for a pit stop to grab coffee and a snack at Homegrown Hamilton. I’ll have to return there soon for some proper lunch, but the blueberry-cranberry muffin I had was delicious – shout out to MaySon who is the pastry chef there, who I’ve recently communicated with over Tumblr!
Then we ventured back toward Hamilton’s East End to check out 270 Sherman. I had not heard of the building until I saw a flurry of Tweets the night of the art exhibit TH&B 2’s grand opening. It sounded like a really exciting art exhibition and I made a note to get over there before the show finished. But even apart from the show, I was completely blown away by the building 270 Sherman. My mom and I chatted with one of the artists who happened to be working away, and he described the building as a labyrinth, and that is definitely accurate. I loved walking through the building, turning and turning around each corner that came my way, stopping to marvel at the art along the walls as I passed, and going up flights of stairs to see what else I could find. One floor had a huge, open space with a bunch of architectural art pieces, and the whole space had such a factory feel, even down to the sounds of the aforementioned artist working away. A tour group passed by and we heard a bit about how when the movie Hairspray was filmed in Hamilton, the building was used by some of the cast and extras.
From there, it was up another floor to the TH&B 2 exhibit. I was already blown away by the building, and I hadn’t even got to the main event I was there for, yet! TH&B – Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway, became Tramps, Hobos & Bums; Tired, Hungry & Broke; To Hell & Back, as it was appropriated by the artists. According to the event description, “TH&B 2 follows in the footsteps of an earlier project in 2008, in which 18 artists were invited to respond to the post-industrial context of the unoccupied third floor of 270 Sherman, a historic textile mill that has been transformed into a creative industries complex deep in the north end of Hamilton.” The whole installation was magical – I loved walking through it, trying to snap photos and take everything in at the same time.
I’m so glad I managed to hit up Doors Open Hamilton this year – what an amazing, city-wide initiative. I wouldn’t hesitate to check it out again.