Sunday, February 21, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 21

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events

21. History

Hamilton has history reaching very far back indeed.
As a city itself, that begins with George Hamilton starting in 1815, a full city in 1846.

Think about that for a second. Almost 200 years have gone by. A long time in some eyes, but just a few lifetimes' worth in others.

There's high highs - and low lows.

There's industry and achievement and celebration. There's advances in science and beautiful buildings and times of prosperity. There's royal ties, the "Ambitious City,"

There's also failure and division and corruption. There's violence and the Mob and gangs and backroom deals and gambling dens.

In short, it's everything that makes a good story -- it just depends on how it ends. Hamilton has to decide whether it wants comedy or tragedy. (For more of that story, this is one of the best places to start and their links section is good too.) You can also see People from Hamilton and a couple history resources: WikiTravel, Wikipedia, Landmarks, HamiltonKiosk - there's a lot of other stuff out there too, like cemetery tours and Doors Open and our transit history )

For the past, there's people passionately dedicated to preserving this history.
Graham at HIStory and HERitage and Brian at Historical Hamilton are two I've met.
Why even though I've never seen it up, I keep hearing about the Birks Clock. I live on the border of Corktown.

For the future, Hamilton needs to choose.

You can go back to the glory days, and want to reclaim whatever aspect of those you liked best. That might be the downtown of yesteryear or the days 10,000+ people could get a steel job and move up on the Mountain away from downtown. It might be the school you went to or the lifestyle you lived.

Or you can remember and keep those things as part of Hamilton's identity, but move on to what new things need to be done and the new industries that need to be created and the new facets of its identity that Hamilton needs to find.

Whatever happens, Hamilton can't ignore its past -- but it also can't wallow in it. We need people who are going to look ahead and write the next chapter of Hamilton's history intentionally, not allow it to happen to them.

So we need to step up. Start diversifying the economy. Put a limit on industrial areas, insert commercial buffer zones between them and residential. There's no rhyme or reason to allowing homes to exist that close to pollutants like that anymore. We need to urban-plan our existing neighbourhoods. Put a hard line between "industry" and waterfront for now.

And as the past couple decades has found urbanists enjoying the advantages of downtowns and cities, Hamilton needs to look away from its jaded past of "getting away" from downtown. Hamilton needs to get over its stereotypes and start to understand what a healthy downtown looks like, not let it default into whatever the lowest common denominator and neglect come up with. We need to care for our waterfront. We need transit good enough for all economic groups to use - in all wards and all of the 'downtown' areas from Dundas to Stoney Creek. We need centres of amenities in each neighbourhood to localize and centralize mini-economies. Above all of those things, we need good jobs locally.

Hamilton has a future, and it can go a lot of ways. But that's not my point.

Hamilton has hundreds of years behind it. There's drama, history, character, intrigue - and chapters yet to be written. Hamilton has history. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

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