Located on the west shore of Lake Ontario, Hamilton is an anchor city for the Golden Horseshoe, one of North America’s largest urban agglomerations extending from Toronto and its suburbs all the way around to the Niagara Region of St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, including Hamilton, Barrie, Mississauga, and more. According to the 2006 Canadian census, Hamilton has a population of just over 500,000 residents. The city is the third largest in Ontario and the ninth largest in all of Canada. Historically, Hamilton grew from manufacturing roots, and the city is known from many who pass by it on the QEW Expressway for its prominent steel mills.
But Hamilton is more than heavy industry; it is, instead, a multicultural melting pot with a growing economy and a thriving culture of museums, castles, gardens, and much more. Also of note is the fact that the city is bisected by a “mountain” – really a large and very steep hill called the Niagara Escarpment, but it separates Hamilton into “upper” and “lower” areas. Upper Hamilton includes the mostly suburban and residential areas west of the downtown core and away from the lake, and lower Hamilton is comprised of mostly the urban core of downtown and the low-lying areas to the east along Lake Ontario’s shore, including the heavy manufacturing areas.
In the middle of lower Hamilton’s downtown are many skyscrapers which make Hamilton’s skyline impressive, and two large urban enclosed malls which are connected and functionally operate as one, and will be referred to for practical purposes in this article as one mall: Hamilton City Centre and Lloyd Jackson Square. Located right in the center of the city, the malls share several city blocks and are bounded by King Street, Bay Street, York Boulevard and James Street. Named after former Hamilton mayor Lloyd Jackson, his namesake mall opened in 1970. The 1970s were a booming period of construction around the mall which also put up several tall skyscrapers which attach to the mall’s interior walkways, including Stelco (steel) Tower, Landmark Place and the Bank of Montreal pavilion. The main anchor to the malls was Eaton’s department store, which had been present in downtown Hamilton for decades prior. In 1977, the second phase of the mall opened including a six story office tower and in the 1980s a Sheraton and 19,000-seat coliseum opened, all attached to the mall.
However, harder times came to Hamilton in the 1990s, affecting its economy as the manufacturing jobs dwindled in the area. In 1999, a hard blow came to the Hamilton City Centre (then Eaton Centre) portion of the mall block when Eaton’s went out of business nationwide. Sears, who bought Eatons, declined to reinvest in the troubled mall and instead sold its interest and today a portion of the space is Quebec-based Hart discount department store. At that point, that portion of the mall was officially renamed Hamilton City Centre from Eaton Centre.
Today, the malls exist mainly as a support structure for people working and staying downtown. Much of the designated retail space in both the Lloyd Jackson and especially the Hamilton City Centre portions of the mall have been converted to office or other uses, or simply remain vacant. However, there is still a significant retail portion in the cavernous, winding mall, mostly centered around the large food court and adjacent to the very popular indoor farmer’s market attached to the mall.
The design and decor of the malls is also remarkable. The Lloyd Jackson and Hamilton City Centre portions of the mall, while connected and functionally one mall, are styled differently. In terms of design, the City Centre portion can effectively be considered one dead-end leg of the Lloyd Jackson center, which is larger. However, the City Centre portion is three stories whereas the Lloyd Jackson portion is mostly one story and windy. See the pictures for a better explanation of the confusing layout; we got lost at least once in the mall, which we were kind of amused by. In terms of decor, the Hamilton City Centre portion is largely a more modern, 1990s design, whereas much of the Lloyd Jackson portion is dated to the 1980s or 1970s.
Take a look at the photos we captured of the mall and downtown Hamilton from 2006, and feel free to leave your comments and stories as usual.