Two Tales Of A City: Hamilton History Hunters


Michelle and I headed up to Hamilton to continue the research portion of Two Tales Of A City. The three and a half hour car ride  gave us plenty of time to develop a working plan of exactly what we wanted to accomplish for the next two days in Hamilton, Ontario. To get a better understanding of the history of Hamilton, we thought that making a community timeline would be a great start. Along with that, we would pass out photocopied newspaper articles pertaining to the steel, textile and francophone history of Hamilton for people to highlight and circle the most important parts.

But first, we needed the right tools.

At Staples, we stopped to buy a clipboard, some markers, post-it notes and some kind of paper/board/foam that was long enough to build a time-line.

After some discussion and selection of this awesome yellow clipboard, we decided that for a time-line, it would be much more suiting to use fabric! We thought that playing on the textile history of Hamilton would make for some interesting discussions and story-sharing.

Next, we headed off to the textile district on Ottawa Street to seek out a fabric markers and of course, fabric.

Michelle noticed that all the street names in the textile district had little buttons on them. Neat find!

Inside Fabricland, we sorted through to find the colours to use on the timeline.

Then went on to find the perfect fabric.

Found it.



After gathering our supplies, we headed to the upper part of Hamilton, where Irene lives, to start making our timeline. Above: the escarpment.

At Irene’s, we started the construction of the timeline. Here’s Michelle testing out the fabric markers.

The black worked out really well. Sadly, the colours shown above, barely showed up.

We decided that we would return the colours and look for a different alternative. Michelle thought that pinning post-it notes with text written on them would look better than writing on the timeline itself, similarly to what was done in Calgary.

Cutting straight lines.

Since the timeline is made out of fabric, we had to consider how we could hold it up and keep it sturdy enough to resemble a sign. Michelle took some scrap fabric and started braided it as an example for some kind of reinforcement to place on the back of the timeline. The discussion led us to believe that adding wooden dowels as support would be the answer.

Close up of the timeline.

Marking the date of “yesterday”.

Using black fabric marker to create some thick lines.

Since the fabric had the quilt squares on them, it made it a lot easier for us to measure across and mark the lines.

Mock up sketch of the timeline.

Inserting key words.


After that section of the day was done, we wrote out a schedule that dictated how we would spend the rest of our night. We decided that there were some new materials to buy and that we should visit the sites in the textile and steel districts where we would want to set up our timeline.

Michelle with the timeline.

We drove through and around the steel district that is located along the bay area in Hamilton. By car, we encircled the factories and felt how empty this part of the city was compared to the rest.

A lot of the places we drove by were heavily fenced off with multi signs reading “No Unauthorized Entry”.


We realized that the steel district would not work very well for gathering information because there were nearly no pedestrians walking and no way we could gain access to the factories.

Industrial steel factories.

Next, we stopped at Lowe to pick up some wooden dowels.

Glue gun, glue sticks, to-do list.

Our stack of supplies.

We bought 2 dowels that were 3 feet long each. We decided to glue them together so that they would span the width of the timeline.

As we worked through the evening, we discussed how best to approach the people of Hamilton. We decided that the more friendly and harmless we seemed, the more willing people would be to talk.

We came up with the “Official Hamilton History Hunters” as a badge to wear on our jackets, stating our intentions as we take to the streets.

Running the dowels through the back of the timeline.

Above: Back patch as well as front “Broken City Lab” badge.

We head out into the city tomorrow! Stay tuned for more.




Two Tales of a City: Hamilton Industry notes and articles

I ventured to the CAW centre today to take advantage of the free WIFI and do a bit of research on the history of industry in Hamilton. I found some interesting articles about a abandonned knitting mill that was bought by Toronto Developpers and is being transformed into condos.


The Hamilton Textile District located on Ottawa Street is the largest fabric and textile district in Canada and also Hamilton’s top tourist destination.


This 1920’s commercial district in East Hamilton grew out of the local textile and fabric industry
which manufactured everything from sewing machines to clothing. Today the Textile District is
a thriving shopping area that has found its niche in fabrics, sewing and home decor. It is also
the site of the very first Tim Horton’s location.

From Wikipedia article on the Economic History of Hamilton:

Canadian patent laws and the underemployed workers skilled in machinist trades lured an important new industrial enterprise from the U.S.A.- the manufacture of sewing machines by Richard Wanzer. From this development there evolved the ready-made clothing industry, which William Eli Sanford introduced locally.

City of Hamilton Document Re: Cannon Street Knitting Mills

A few links to articles:

Knitting Mills

More on Knitting Mills

Even more on Knitting Mills

and more

Potential interviewees:

writer of this article on sustainable steel industry in Hamilton

 McMaster University Steel Research

Also, this is my aunt who works at DOFASCO (steel company in Hamilton)


Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français

Below is the transcription of the interview Rosina and I had this fall with Ariane from the Centre Français in Hamilton. While going through what was discussed around the topics of francophonie in Hamilton, I came across a good amount of ideas and phrases that could be interestingly interpreted when paired in context to the steel industry. It became clear to me that the Steel industry versus other minor industries important to Hamilton’s development, such as the textile industry, tells an interesting story when paired with the Anglophone culture in Hamilton versus a variety of other language-based cultures forming in the city over the past 40 years.

At the end of the interview we asked about words in either language that cannot be translated. I think this would be a good question to ask on an online form in the near future.

Below is the interview (in french), and as a comment to this post is the  compilation of the phrases picked out of the conversation to be used as further research. Please read the interview (you can translate it roughly using google if you need to) and add your comments and suggestions for potential interviewees, as well as further interview questions for a steel industry representative, an anglophone, and a textile industry representative.

Thanks again to Ariane at the Centre Français in Hamilton for providing some insights into francophone culture and identity in Hamilton.

Continue reading “Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français”

Making Banners at the Labour Lounge


We spent Friday night in Hamilton at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre as part of their Labour Lounge series (organized by once-Windsorite, Andrew Lochhead).

In a little less than two hours, we led a workshop and explosion of creativity with some amazingly great 13-year-olds. We made banners, two really great banners that will be hung up in the community gallery at the WAHC for a month (soon)!

Continue reading “Making Banners at the Labour Lounge”

Labour Lounge @ WAHC in Hamilton

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre

Broken City Lab is heading up to Hamilton on Friday, November 20th, 2009 to run a workshop/event on communicating through intervention in urban spaces. The workshop is being held at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre as part of their Labour Lounge series, this time in partnership with the Hamilton Youth Arts Network.

This has been the description of the workshop/event and it’s perfectly fitting: “Come on out and learn how art can interact with the urban environment leading to AWESOMENESS!” Oh, and our workshop will lead into the hip hop stylings of Lee Reed; it should be amazing fun!

The details: Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (51 Stuart Street, Hamilton), 7pm – 10:30pm.