The last days of Sanford Avenue School – a raw video walk around

It was a cold and windy evening…

This heritage worthy building we fought for is now in mid-demolition and I am not sure how much longer there will be any structure left. It really was suddenly cold and windy, but I felt the urgency to document this last stand of one of the last of the great Barton Village classic buildings.

This is pretty raw footage of me walking around the building. I do make a brief statement at the beginning, but this is for reference for … future use. Hopefully, we’ve made a difference overall in Hamilton for other communities going forward.

Sanford Avenue School was a very special heritage building, built in 1932 during the great depression. One of the gems of a notoriously poor neighbourhood, this is the sort of structure that is attractive for a very wide range of opportunities including a college, a community centre or health facility. Despite well documented flaws in the public consultation process and the demolition / heritage process, the HWDSB, the City of Hamilton and then the Government of Ontario failed the future interests of  the Barton Village community and allowed the first 100% steel framed building in Canada to be sold as scrap. No public interest from developers was allowed to be entertained.

For the record, below is a list of  trustees who voted to allow Sanford Avenue School to be demolished, and not to allow any alternatives to be presented by private or non-governmental organizational interest. Also included on this list of “Heritage & Community Shame” are the City and Provincial elected officials without whose express support and approval this tragedy could not have happened.

At the time of this posting, there is no secured funding or concrete plans for any development of the site into a park, soccer field or Recreation Complex expansion.  The most frustrating part for most of us? There would of been enough room for all of this if they had agreed to re-arrange parking instead of demolishing this beautiful structure that would have served nicely economic tool for revitalization. There is a need for new leadership in Hamilton, and the following elected officials should not trusted with public office again:

Ward 3 Councilor 

Bernie Morelli

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Chair

Tim Simmons

HWDSB Trustees:

Bob Barlow

Todd White

Lillian Orban

Wes Hicks

Jessica Brennan

Karen Turkstra

Ray Mulholland

(Former) Liberal Education Minister

Laurel Broten

sanford last video 023

friend, fellow heritage activist and Photographer Joanna St. Jacques

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See also http://hamiltonsusualsuspects.blogspot.ca/?m=1 for more photos and discussion

Sanford Avenue School shines bright – photography by artist Joanna St.Jacques

Sanford Avenue School

A friend here in Hamilton, Ontario came over to my hood and took this photo. When she emailed it to me later, I was blown away – not only because I’ve developed a personal attachment to it while fighting to save it from being demolished, but because it has been stubbornly difficult to being able to be photographed as a whole, with its character intact. This is the best contemporary  impression of this 1932 depression-era heritage I have seen.

I love this photo for many reasons. Formally, I love the grid of windows, each with it’s own variance tells a story of when it was last used (can you spot the Mona Lisa lurking in one of the windows? a neat cardboard cutout I had not noticed before…). I look at the accents on top the building and how this is like something straight out of the Art Deco influenced movie “Metropolis“. I look at this and it makes me want to learn more about architecture.

Sadly and beautifully, the neglect and stress of the last ten years is all over this building. The atmosphere of this work is troubling, brooding and somehow majestic. I had the pleasure of hanging out with St. Jacques while she took this photo with some special techniques, but I won’t reveal them.

The grit and dirt of it’s exterior is a texture that contrasts with the solid frame and spectacular craftsmanship that would hold this structure together for hundreds of years – if we let it. The school board has rebuffed those who wanted to re-vitalize it over the last ten years, while not maintaining it or making repairs.

Currently, the building is still slated for demolition as early as three weeks from now. They have no funds to replace it with anything but a rubble strewn empty lot, and they are essentially tearing down this building because the “big machine” of bureaucracy considers a mostly empty parking lot beside it as untouchable. Insurance, of course, is also an issue and the school board could clear this liability off their books, regardless of the developers and community members asking to be allowed to present alternatives for using it. Exactly how could these considerations be any less inspiring, noble or even necessary?

There is a Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, December 17th. This is the last meeting before they can go ahead and demolish it and leave this poor neighbourhood another empty lot to live with.

Please consider contacting your local Trustee and expressing your concerns about this situation – our community voices are making a difference:

Ward 3
Lower City

Tim Simmons
Chair of the Board
Chair’s Office: 905.527.5092 x 2279
Phone: 905.308.6832
tim.simmons@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 9 & 10
West Stoney Creek
(lower and mountain)

Robert Barlow
Vice-Chair
Phone: 905.308.2483
robert.barlow@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 1 & 2
West Lower city

Judith Bishop
Phone: 905.512.5713
judith.bishop@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 4
East Lower City

Ray Mulholland
Phone: 905.547.2237
ray.mulholland@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 5
East City

Todd White
Phone: 289.237.1644
todd.white@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 6
East Mountain

Laura Peddle
Phone: 289.238.9284
Cell: 905.308.3367
laura.peddle@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 7
Central Mountain

Lillian Orban
Phone: 905.573.8181
lillian.orban@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 8
West Mountain

Wes Hicks
Phone: 905.383.2222
wes.hicks@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 11 & 12
East Stoney Creek
Ancaster
Glanbrook

Alex Johnstone
Phone: 905.515.7082
alex.johnstone@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 13
Dundas

Jessica Brennan
Message Line 905.627.3820.
jessica.brennan@hwdsb.on.ca

Ward 14 & 15
Flamborough

Karen Turkstra
Phone: 905.515.8726
karen.turkstra@hwdsb.on.ca

A view of the parking lot the City and School Board bureaucracy want to preserve (note the wide and underused street suitable for street parking)

Sanford School, street and parking

Sanford School, street and parking