How about a downtown heritage walk using your mobile phone to lead the way?
There’s a delicious cafe near the corner of King and John streets that offers a dozen varieties of coffee as well as a whimsical assortment of sandwiches, snacks, and baked goods such as gluten-free “raw protein balls.”
The place is called Redchurch, even though the facade of the building has been painted white.
But, there’s something even more intriguing than the menu or the clash of colors.
It’s probably not something coffee shop patrons tend to talk about a lot. But the three-and-a-half-story structure that was once known as Victoria Hall stands out for its ornate metal exterior.
Point your cell phone at a “Memory Lane” QR code in the front window, and you can see images of how the streetscape looks and learn how the Old Lobby is “a superior and rare example of a commercial building with a decorative, architectural sheet metal facade, made entirely by hand rather than by machine.
According to the fact sheet, the 1880s building was designed by architect William Stewart, and “is an irreplaceable element in the continuum of King Street commercial architecture…and is one of the the oldest and most architecturally accomplished in Canada. .”
Victoria Hall is just one of more than 50 stops on an innovative ‘Memory Lane’ self-guided tour organized by the Hamilton Downtown BIA which recently won a heritage recognition award from the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee.
The buildings featured are on King, King William, James and John Streets with a few other addresses further afield. You can read about classics such as the Pigott Building, the Royal Connaught and the Right House which are still standing, as well as others which are no longer with us such as the old Spectator Building at 28 James St. S and the Birks Building at 1 James S St.
Suzi Ozer, operations manager for the Downtown Business Improvement Area, worked on the project for four months last year relying primarily on resources provided by the local history and archives section. from the Hamilton Public Library.
The BIA was looking for a social distancing friendly activity that could be managed during the pandemic and would still be viable after it ended.
Ozer says she found the QR code technology to be a great way to convey stories of interesting buildings in the center. People simply point their cellphone camera at the code, and it should automatically display a PDF of information and images. The technology has become mainstream in recent years and is frequently used in Spectator Pages. In 2010, the paper became an early adopter when codes were used for a temporary tour of buildings on James Street North as part of a special section on the street that appeared in the paper.
For Ozer, she says, she learned a lot about downtown heritage by doing research. “I had no idea of the history of so many buildings that I passed every day.
“It helped me better understand how downtown is a commercial hub from the beginning. It just got a changing face over the decades.
For a time during the pandemic, it seemed like history tours had become history. But this summer there are a lot of offers.
Remembrance Trail Tour
A self-guided tour by the Hamilton Downtown BIA of over 50 downtown buildings using QR codes that have been placed in windows along the route. For more information and a list of locations, go to Downtownhamilton.org/things-to-do/memory-lane
Walking tours of downtown Hamilton
Free 90-minute in-person tours are held weekly by local historian Bill King. They start at King and John streets on Sundays at 10 a.m.
June 5 — Old Hamilton Mountain Roads.
June 12 — Railway remains
June 19 – Housing the Wealthy in 19th Century Hamilton
June 26 — The McQuestens of Whitehern
July 3 – Military Highlights in Hamilton’s History
Further weekly tours will take place until October 9. For a complete summer and fall schedule, visit attawa.ca or contact [email protected]
Hamilton Cemetery Tours
Free two-hour in-person tours are hosted by local historian Robin McKee. They begin at the Hamilton Cemetery Gatehouse (777 York Blvd.) and begin Saturdays at 11 a.m.
June 4 — The Power of the City
June 11 — Art Crawl Tour
June 18 — Disaster Visit
June 25 — Women’s Tour
July 2 – Civil War Tour
Further weekly tours will take place until November 19. For a complete summer and fall schedule, visit hamiltonhistory.ca. McKee recently published two books containing information and photos of his visits which are available from him at the cemetery on visitation days.
Historic Gore WalkRound
A new 12-page brochure, titled ‘Historic Gore Walking Tour’ offers a self-guided journey through the history of Gore Park. An initiative of the Beasley Neighborhood Association and sponsored by the Hamilton Heritage Foundation, the colorful brochure is available free of charge from the Tourism Hamilton office at 28 James Street North. (Open from Tue. to Sat. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Dieppe 80 Tour 2022
August 19 marks the 80th anniversary of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid that claimed the lives of more than 900 Canadians, including nearly 200 soldiers from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. To commemorate the solemn occasion, an 11-day/10-night tour has been organized by Battlefield Tour Co., starting August 13 in London, England, with stops in France that include Dieppe for the commemorative ceremonies. It features historian and professor David O’Keefe who has written extensively about the World War II raid on the German-occupied French city. His bestseller “A Day in August” argued that the raid was essentially a clandestine attempt to “pinch” German technology and coding manuals, which ultimately failed. The cost of the tour is $4,780 per person, based on double occupancy, not including airfare. For more details go to, hdhgrouptours.com/tour/dieppe-80/