What Is Behind Photographing Hamilton’s Jewel – the Waterfront ?
Friday January 28 2011
In the heritage of Hamilton, it is fortunate to start with La Salle visited the Hamilton area in 1616, a fact commemorated at a park in nearby Burlington. In 1788 (1788-1793) the township at the Head-Of-The-Lake were surveyed and named. The area was first known as Head-Of-The-Lake for its location at the western end of Lake Ontario. In 1812, the Town of Hamilton was conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand Farm shortly after the War of 1812. In 1816, Hamilton was a Village. And, George Hamilton’s settlement was incorporated as a police village in 1833 ( Hamilton included Ancaster then, and Ancaster was a police village). On January 8, 1833 Legislation passed to a further Act: “To define the limits of the Town of Hamilton, in the District Gore, to establish (1) a police station, and (2) a public market.” As Hamilton continually grew, it became Canada’s fifth largest city with a population of 114,000 in 1921. Hamilton’s population continues to increase. A major influx was a 75% population increase during 1901 -1912, just prior to World War 1. Currently the amalganated Hamilton Region has a population of over 500,000.
Let us start at the Waterfront, a photographic jewel in Hamilton’s cityscape’s. The area between Burlington Bay (Hamilton Harbour) and the Niagara Escarpment has been greatly altered for residential, industrial and recreation purposes.
But, to access the waterfront, travel down James Street called Lake Road in 1835, because obviously it lead to Lake Ontario. Now going back to 1803, over two hundred years ago, John Ryckman describes the area as “The city in 1803 was all FOREST.. The shores of the Bay were difficult to reach or see because they were hidden by a thick, almost impenetrable mass of trees and undergrowth (Forest). Bears ate pigs, so settlers warred on Bears. Wolves gobbled Sheep and Geese, so they hunted and trapped Wolves. They also held organizations on Rattlesnakes on the mountainshide. Deer abounded and were seen jumping freely. There were millions of pigeons which we clubbed as they flew low.” Now, James Street is a lower arterial road in Hamilton, Ontario which starts at the base of the Niagara Escarpment from James Mountain Road. This James Mountain Road in the city, originally was a one-way street going south throughout but now it has sections that are two-way. It extends north of to Hamilton Harbour Waterfront at the North End, where it ends at Guise Street West right in front of the Harbour West Marina Complex and the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club. Life in Hamilton in the 1800s was difficult as in 1849 and 1854 there was major outbreaks of cholera, and in 1860 the hottest day was recorded at 41.4 C , before air conditioning. But, civic bathing at the Bay was common until it was closed in 1944 by the Department of Health.
Here at the waterfront, the HMCS Haida (Canada’s most famous warship and last remaining Tribal Class in the world ) moved to the City of Hamilton by Parks Canada where she has become a focal point of a revitalized waterfront. The main contributor of this revitalization is the Waterfront Trust who in 2,000 opened the Hamilton Waterfront Trail. Among their many accomplishments is the new NHL size Ice Skating Rink that overlooks the Hamilton West Harbourfront. Shipping has always been an asset to Hamilton Harbour. That is the growth to Hamilton in 1827 was aided by a channel cut to link Burlington Bay directly with Lake Ontario, thus improving its marine transportation. In 1813, two American Schooners, the Hamilton and the Scourge, capsized in Lake Ontario. When Hamilton’s population was 2,000 the Beach Canal opened, in 1834. More recently, in 1958, the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway Bridge, known as the Burlington Bay Skyway, or the Skyway Bridge is located in both Hamilton and Burlington. It is part of the QEW Freeway linking Fort Erie with Toronto in Ontario. And, shipping still abounds in Hamilton Harbour as in 2,006 the Hamilton Port Authority handled over 12 million tons of cargo and Hamilton Harbour is visited by over 700 vessels each year. This activity in Hamilton Harbour ranks the Harbour as the busiest of all Canadian Great Lakes ports.
If you asked the question where WETLANDS were in this area, most Hamiltonian’s would say Cootes Paradise Marsh (Dundas Marsh). That answer is true ! But, there was also a BOG ! That is, James Street was extended south, but was interrupted by a BOG at Hunter Street which eventually, in 1844, was drained and graded. Thirteen years later, in 1857, when the Great Western Railroad Train made the present opening of the Desjardines Canal, the bones of a mammoth were found. At the waterfront, Bay Street derives its name from its proximity to Hamilton Harbour, which was once Burlington Bay. In 1919, a Federal-Order-In-Council changed the name of Burlington Bay to Hamilton Harbour. We know that going west to Princess Point and the Westdale Ravine Trails where the properties are now owned by RBG. But, it was King George V who in 1937 allowed the City of Hamilton to use the name, Royal Botanical Gardens as of May 19, The RGB was established as an independent entity in 1941 by an Act of the Provincial Government, but the project’s origins are traceable to the late 1920s when the City of Hamilton began acquiring land for the beautification of Hamilton’s North-West Entrance. This jewel of Hamilton Harbour waterfront is Breathtaking and has much to offer for both residents and visitors. It has become a four-season playground at our doorstep.
Photographer Doug Worrall