Hamilton’s Old City Hall demolished to make way for Jackson Square

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After years of debate, the city sent a wrecking crew into downtown Hamilton and tore out more than a century of history to make way for a more modernist future.

Among the casualties was Hamilton’s former city hall that was built in 1888. It was knocked down in November 1961. In 1970, Jackson Square was built.

The loss of the iconic stone city hall building with its large clock tower on James Street North remains controversial to this day. Also contentious was the expropriation of other businesses and homes to make way for Jackson Square and Copps Coliseum.

Hamilton’s old city hall

Address: 25 James St. N.

Built: 1888-1890

Architecture: French Romanesque

Architectural features: An elegant, stone structure with graceful arches and a high clock tower.

In use: January 1890 to Oct. 28, 1960.

Before 1890: Local taverns were used for town hall meetings before regular meetings were scheduled at the Market Hall.

Early criticism of the Old City Hall: A 1929 editorial in The Spectator called it “antiquated and inadequate.” In 1944, it was called a “fire trap.”

And in 1947, it was denounced as “dangerous, obsolete and too small to accommodate the expanded functions of the civic administration.”

Demolished: January to June 1961. Most of the rubble was used as fill for the wharf extension of Catharine Street. Some 500 tonnes of stone were put into storage in King’s Forest.

New City Hall: Construction started in 1958, and the new building opened for business at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 31, 1960.