Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sketchy Friday: The Lister Block

This is The Lister Block (or at least a portion of it).  Located at the corner of James Street North and King William, The Lister is considered one of downtown Hamilton's most important buildings.  Originally a 4 floor building constructed in 1886 by James Lister, it was destroyed by fire in 1923 and then quickly rebuilt in 1924, this time with 6 floors.  It is said to be Canada's first indoor commercial mall.

Though I've looked at the building hundreds of times in my lifetime, after sketching it, I feel like I've now truly seen it for the first time.  Never before did I appreciate the incredible terra cotta and copper detailing that adorns the building.  Just look at the glazed terra cotta swirls and shells that run along the cornice.  Amazing!

The historic photo and key plan below show how Lister and the surrounding blocks looked in 1954.  Just look at those bustling streets filled with shoppers.  Back then, the Lister was located across the street from City Hall and Hamilton's main public space - Market Square.  However, just like most North American cities, Hamilton's downtown began to decline around the time this photo was taken.  (in the key plan, the Lister Block has been shaded orange and the green arrow shows the vantage point that the photo was taken from).
Fast forward to 2010 and, as you can see from this photo, the Lister was in a deep state of decay.  Boarded up and abandoned, many viewed the building as emblematic of the entire downtown.  The drastic changes that took place downtown are apparent from the key plan.  Gone are the old City Hall across the street and Market Square.  These were replaced in the 1970s by a massive renewal project (Jackson Square - the large balck and grey mass at the top left of the key plan).  Though the project was supposed to reverse downtown decline, most agree today that it only served to accelerate it.
One need only to search 'Lister Block' on Flickr to see just how deep a state of decay the building was in on the inside.  Here is one photo from Blasphemy, madness, Hamburgers:
Abandoned, spray painted, and flooded - looking at this photo it's hard to believe that the Lister could ever be saved.  But, after over a year of restoration and renovations, Lister has undergone an incredible transformation and has just about been returned to its former glory.  Soon, the upper floors will house offices for a number of municipal departments while the ground floor will become home to the city's tourism office and a number of other retail tenants.

I've been in the building a few times recently for work and though I can't share the transformation just yet, I can assure you that its beauty will blow you away!

No comments: