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Notice of Intention to Designate 110-122 King Street East, Hamilton (former Royal Connaught Hotel)

The City of Hamilton intends to designate 110-122 King Street East, Hamilton, under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, as being a property of cultural heritage value.

Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest

The property known as the Royal Connaught Hotel has outstanding cultural heritage value to the citizens of Hamilton.  Built in 1914-16 and expanded in 1931, the hotel is important for its place in the history of Hamilton, in the City’s architectural development, and in the downtown streetscape today.

The property known as the Royal Connaught Hotel has outstanding cultural heritage value to the citizens of Hamilton.  Built in 1914-16, and expanded in 1931, the hotel is important for its place in the history of Hamilton, in the City’s architectural development, and in the downtown streetscape today.

Its Place in the History of Hamilton:

The Royal Connaught Hotel property has long been associated with the history of the hospitality industry in Hamilton.  It is the site of the Hamilton Hotel/Anglo American Hotel/Waldorf Hotel (1856-1914) and is presently occupied by the former Royal Connaught Hotel building, a first class hotel, which opened in 1916 and closed in 2004.  In terms of the local hotel industry, the Royal Connaught Hotel of 1914-16 represents a significant advance in fireproof hotel construction.

The impetus behind the building of the hotel came principally from Harry Louis Frost, an important manufacturer in Hamilton in the early twentieth century who had established the Canadian component of the Frost Wire Fence Company.  Through his efforts as President of the Hamilton Board of Trade, the Hamilton Hotel Company Limited was organized to raise 50 per cent of the total cost of the hotel site and completed building by the sale of capital stock among the citizens of Hamilton.  Because of his premature death in 1919, at the age of 44, the hotel became a monument to him and his life’s work.

The Royal Connaught Hotel, a hotel in the tradition of grand hotels, was the centre of social life in Hamilton during much of the twentieth century.  It was the scene of royal visits, political functions, football rallies, convention banquets, ballroom dances, nightclub entertainment, community club meetings, family celebrations, and fine dining. In addition, the first Kiwanis Club in Canada was formed at the hotel on November 1, 1916.

Its Place in the Architectural Development of Hamilton:

The Royal Connaught Hotel of 1914-16 is an early and surviving example of a second generation skyscraper, the earliest examples in Hamilton having been demolished.  Designed in the Edwardian Classical style, it stands as an important building from the Edwardian era.  The building of the Royal Connaught Hotel, at the end of the Edwardian period in the form of a skyscraper, symbolizes the ambition of the citizens of Hamilton for the City to reflect a metropolitan appearance and to offer first-class hotel accommodation and exceptional service on par with other large cities.

The Royal Connaught Hotel of 1914-16 is also an early example of steel frame construction in Hamilton.  The steel for the frame was manufactured in Hamilton by the Hamilton Bridge Works Company.

The Royal Connaught Hotel of 1914-16 is a Canadian example of the work of Buffalo architects, Esenwein & Johnson.  In addition to being the second most active architectural practice in Buffalo at the turn of the twentieth century, they were architects for the United Hotels Company of America, the largest hotel chain in the United States in the early twentieth century.  Esenwein & Johnson were known for their masterful use of white-glazed terra cotta, a material particularly associated with the Edwardian period and the artistic qualities of the material are evident in the hotel’s front facade and east elevation.

The west tower addition of 1931, by Hutton & Souter, a prominent architectural firm in Hamilton in the early twentieth century, is considered to be among the firm’s best known buildings; the others are the Basilica of Christ the King at King Street West and Highway 403, and the Dominion Public Building (now the John Sopinka Courthouse) across John Street South from the Royal Connaught Hotel.

The west tower addition is a unique example of the Art Deco style in that the design of its front façade is tempered to complement the tripartite Classical composition of the earlier Edwardian building.  The seamless integration of the Art Deco addition into the Edwardian building, by cutting through the Edwardian building’s west curtain wall and extending its floor plan westward, shows a high degree of technical achievement for the early twentieth century in Hamilton.

The carved stonework in both the 1931 addition and 1916 building is also well-executed.

Its Place in Downtown Hamilton:

The hotel’s west tower addition is linked historically and visually to the Dominion Public Building on the west side of John Street South.  Designed by the same architects, the buildings were completed within five years of one another.  They share the same monochromatic palette, a tripartite division in the composition of each of their front facades and columns of windows.

The Royal Connaught Hotel contributes to King Street East, a boulevard of historic and infill buildings built to the lot line and next to one another.  Because of its twelve storey height and long frontage, the hotel dominates the King Street East block between Catharine Street South and John Street South.  It draws the eye eastward along the boulevard, and creates a physical character that reflects the metropolitan appearance sought by large North American cities in the early twentieth century.

The Royal Connaught Hotel is a landmark in downtown Hamilton.  Although other more recent buildings are taller, it still has a commanding presence on King Street East. The view of the hotel from James Street North across Gore Park is important in the townscape.  The view of the rooftop pavilion is an especially memorable image.

The former hotel building’s cultural heritage value is embodied in the:

  • Front façade (north elevation);
  • East elevation;
  • West elevation;
  • Slender portion of the south elevation where the brick and terra cotta of the east elevation wrap around to the south elevation; and,
  • The lobby and mezzanine in the interior.

Front Facade (North Elevation):

Heritage attributes of the front facade in the 1914-16 building include:

  • All features in limestone on the ground and mezzanine floors and their fenestration;
  • The brown rug brick and white-glazed terra cotta curtain wall and the fenestration of the floor above the mezzanine floor (the hotel’s second floor or third storey, which together with the ground and mezzanine floors forms the front facade’s base);
  • The seven floors of brown rug brick wall and windows which comprise the front facade’s shaft; and,
  • The front facade’s upper two storeys and overhanging cornice - the capital of the composition - completely executed in white-glazed terra cotta and lit by windows that follow the fenestration pattern in the shaft.

Heritage attributes of the front facade in the 1931 addition include:

  • The brown polished granite foundation veneer;
  • The limestone ground floor articulated by its six bays;
  • The limestone mezzanine and second floors containing six bays of slender round-arched window pairs;
  • The seven floors above the base of the composition (the shaft) which have columns of windows ascending the lightly coloured brick curtain wall;
  • The front façade’s upper floors, the capital of the composition, containing four pairs of round-arched windows, two outer bays which extend the columns of windows up from the shaft, and a partially flat and partially pedimented parapet decorated with arcaded brick; and,
  • The rooftop pavilion designed to resemble a hip-roofed garden pavilion where round-arched French windows open onto a terrace.

East Elevation:

Heritage attributes of the hotel’s east elevation include:

  • The northernmost three bays of the base (the ground, mezzanine, and second floors) clad in limestone, brown rug brick and white-glazed terra cotta and containing the east entrance, oriel window above and other windows;
  • The fourth bay of the base in from the building’s northeast corner, with its terra cotta window trim and stringcourses;
  • The remaining bays of the brown rug brick base, with their terra cotta stringcourses and double-hung windows;
  • The seven brown rug brick floors of the shaft and its windows; and,
  • The upper two storeys and overhanging cornice - the capital of the composition, completely executed in white-glazed terra cotta, and lit by windows that follow the fenestration pattern in the shaft.

West Elevation:

Heritage attributes of the west elevation include:

  • The brown polished granite foundation veneer;
  • The limestone ground floor;
  • The limestone mezzanine and second floors containing eight bays of slender round-arched window pairs;
  • The nine floors in the tower shaft where columns of windows ascend the lightly coloured brick curtain wall;
  • The arcaded brick cornice and stone coping terminating the shaft; and,
  • The rooftop pavilion, which is two bays wide on the west.

South Elevation (Rear Elevation):

Heritage attributes of the south (rear) elevation include:

  • The slender portion of the south elevation, where the brick and terra cotta of the east elevation wrap around to the south elevation.

Interior:

Heritage attributes of the interior include:

  • The lobby and mezzanine space, their Classical columns, beamed and panelled ceiling, and other surviving features of the original design.

Written Notice of Objection

Any person may, within 30 days after the date of the publication of the Notice, serve written notice of their objections to the proposed designation, together with a statement for the objection and relevant facts.

Dated at Hamilton, this 6th day of November, 2020.

A. Holland, City Clerk
Hamilton, Ontario

Contact: David Addington, Cultural Heritage Planner, Phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 1214, Email: [email protected]