1855 Thomas Building gets a new, old face
Lister Block neighbour has 'neat stone walls'
May 16, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
A 19th century building downtown beside the Lister Block has had its front facade exposed for the first time in 48 years as the owner tries to work within its heritage designation.
Workers yesterday removed the final pieces of old white metal cladding that covered the front of the Thomas Building, built in 1855.
Located at 46-52 James Street North, it was designated a heritage site by Hamilton city council in September despite objections from the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), which owns it and the historic Lister Building.
The cladding on part of the building was put on to provide a consistent commercial front for the Ontario Home Furnishings Company after it expanded into the Thomas Building from its existing spot at 50-52 James St. North, according to a city report last fall on its heritage value.
But to fit on the cladding, the building's stone projections, including the window surrounds and the roof cornice, were removed.
"It looks like someone took a chisel to the limestone there way back whenever they did this cladding and it doesn't match up to what was there originally," said Ricardo Persi, LIUNA Local 837 secretary-treasurer.
LIUNA is simply investigating the structure to see if it is sound and has no definite plans for the building's use, he said, adding it has "some very neat stone walls."
"It looks pretty good. We're thinking of just doing renovations inside and maybe using the building as it is."
Persi said there is some concern that part of the exterior front wall that was just exposed is bowing outward. He said it is serious, but doesn't know how serious.
The four-storey building's southern portion is an example of Renaissance Revival architecture from the pre-Confederation period of Canada -- which typically has a heavy cornice and window surrounds with pronounced mouldings.
The original owner was Robert MacKay, but the building was sold to Best and Green Auctioneers the year after it was built, according to city documents. Other mainstay businesses over the years were the Model Cloak & Suit Company and H.&F. Silk Woolen Company. The upper floors were used for years by Clark's Business College, later known as Central Business College.