The terms 'Hamilton, Ontario' and 'tourist destination' don't usually find themselves in the same sentence. That's just the way it is.
Nonetheless, having never tasted the metallic lips of Steeltown myself, I eventually yielded to my urge to 'discover'. I hopped on the GO Train for eighteen dollars return (so glamorous; I felt like I was on Canadian television in 2005) and made my way to that other city on the lake.
The obvious first stop was the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The building, though centrally located, is uninviting; it's one of those brutal 1970's concrete towers we have so many of in Toronto.
Once you get inside the gallery space is bright and modern, however. Admission to the second floor is free, so that's where I went; their Canadian collection is small but surprisingly striking and varied. Of course the second floor only took about half an hour of my day to peruse.
The highlight of my trip may have been the bizarre public monuments that line the downtown core. There was a huge statue dedicated to the founding fathers of southern Ontario: American Loyalists (trying its very best to make them sound daring and heroic), a large brass plaque commemorating the 'first birth control clinic' in Canada and a monument on Main street dedicated to 'accidental workplace fatalities' that I found kind of creepy.
I don't understand why it had to feature a patina'd man without a head clinging to the edge of rusty wall. I'm going to have nightmares about him tonight.
It's obvious the recession has battered the city; there were many large art deco buildings shuttered and closed to the public, not too mention regular storefronts.
My favourite abandoned building was a former vaudeville theatre which ran movies until 1989; it was closed after the local mall installed a multiplex.
All in all Steeltown is a rougher, rockier, more industrial version of Toronto. There isn't too much to see there on a day trip that you can't find at, say, St. Clair and Keele (they should rename that intersection 'Little Hamilton.')
Photos by Mr. Robin Sharp
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