Stinson School Lofts | ? | 4 fl | U/C
Stinson's got his eye on Stinson for development
October 27, 2008
The Hamilton Spectator
Stinson Street School's farewell party had many highlights: the memories of former students, 100-year-old slates to sign, an attic as big as a barn with 94-year-old graffiti, and a question.
Its mahogany doors opened in 1895 near Wentworth Street South. It's slated to close at Christmas, as its kids go to the new Queen Victoria elementary school nearby.
Hamilton public school board director of education Chris Spence said a sale of the property will take months. It has to be offered to public bodies like the city. Then developers get a crack.
And that's why Saturday's party had a special guest.
Developer Harry Stinson, nondescript in an army-style jacket with pockets, toured a building he says is unlike any you can buy in Toronto. He's thinking condos, but isn't making any decisions yet.
"It's the name on the front of the building, that's what it is," he jokes, about the metal "Stinson School" letters on the school's brick that peek through conifers to the street.
The developer doesn't know if he's related to the schools namesake.
"To me the building has all the elements of The Candy Factory" -- Stinson's famous Toronto loft project hailed for its jaw-dropping industrial architecture.
Anyone who walks by is stunned by the beauty of the school and the view of the escarpment, he says. And it's down the street (1.6 km) from the GO station, he adds.
"You are surrounded by a mixed bag of housing, but clearly, at some point, grand homes," adds Stinson, who lives in Hamilton, and failed to secure financing for his $9.5-million offer on the Royal Connaught.
At the school he'll have to ensure the costs of repair and condo conversion don't match the cost units can sell for. He admits this part of the city has challenges but is not impossible.
One thing he is cautious about is its layout: The classrooms (7.6 m by 10 m) may be too small to split into two units, yet too large to sell as singles. The original building has five classrooms built for 50 students on floors one and two, which open onto expansive foyers.
Barbara Sikora, 80, recalls attending Stinson for kindergarten in 1933, and learning how to count using coloured sticks.
"I only got the strap once, one on each hand, and it stung... (for) talking I guess," says Sikora, who hopes the school will become residences.
Caretaker John Lane says whoever buys it needs to invest. The boiler is on its last legs; a 1914 addition to the south would require a second elevator. The gym is from 1959, the library from 1978.
John Aikman, who runs the public school board archives, said one idea may be to use Stinson as home to the archives now at former Vincent Massey school on the Mountain. Aikman, who attended kindergarten at Stinson in 1947, said it will require a lot of work even if it's not converted to condos. A tree is growing out of the front of the school's brick wall; a window in the uninsulated attic is broken; it's not as easy to heat a building as it was in the days of cheap coal.
The building is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, so it's more difficult for an owner to alter.