Nice to see our Co-Chair Elizabeth Ward covered in The Spectator today regarding our neighbourhood association’s initiative in partnership with the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre to capture stories from yesteryear about the community.
Here is the full article and photo above courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator
Elizabeth Ward’s Bay Street North home is warm and colourful, her walls covered in art and photography collected throughout her life.
But the house, too, has a life of its own. In the 1800s, it was the site of Mrs. Wheeler’s Boardinghouse, a temporary home to 19 Great Western Railway workers. Wheeler was a widow and without social welfare, “she kept herself going by running this boardinghouse,” Ward says.
She learned this historical nugget by fluke, from a walking-tour guide put out by the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre. But it got her thinking; what about all the other stories in the neighbourhood?
With help from a $5,500 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Central Neighbourhood Association (of which Ward is a co-chair) is launching a project to share the stories of the area.
Especially as more developers eye this central part of town – bordered by Stuart and Main and Queen and James streets – the neighbourhood association wants residents involved with archiving and protecting their own histories and memories.
“There’s really such a rich labour history and cultural history…what is the future going to look like for the neighbourhood?” Ward asks.
She says the association is all for development, “but if there needs to be pushback from concerned citizenry, there will be.”
And what better way to get people invested in their community than through the age-old art of storytelling. There’s a gold mine of stories, Ward says.
“A few people have talked to us about the Stelco strike, what it was like living here then … or about the march for the nine-hour day, which took place on these streets.”
But there is neat local lore, too.
For example, Ward’s friends live in a home at MacNab and Colborne, which, they’ve been told, was owned by an associate of organized crime figure Rocco Perri.
“Apparently, while the guy (who owned the house was in jail), these other guys destroyed the original floors looking for money that was supposedly hidden underneath,” she says.
So when the mobster got out of jail and had the floors replaced, he had a bold eagle motif put in as a symbol of revenge. And the eagle is still there today, smack dab in the middle of their living room.
There was an old safe in that house, too. Today, it’s used as a counter in a downstairs bathroom.
The association hopes to partner with the Hamilton Public Library and local schools on research. The plan is to hire a part-time co-ordinator in the new year and host a story-telling event in May.
For more information or to get your Central Neighbourhood story captured please e-mail us with your details