Monday, 8 August 2011

3 A.M. James St. N. - 1887

“Perhaps some of you who always keep good, respectable hours would like to know what Hamilton looks like in the wee sma’‘oors ayont the twelve, when all good, honest, easy-going people are sleeping. If you feel like it, just come along with me.”
        “About Night Hawks : Life in the Streets When the Night Begins to Wane”
                                        Hamilton Spectator.
                                                March 19, 1887.
With the above paragraph, a reporter with the Hamilton Spectator, writing under the pseudonym Jehosaphat Jefferson, began an article about what Hamilton was like during the long nights of March, 1887.
After leaving his desk at the Spectator office, Jehosaphat Jefferson ventured out onto James street :
“Now we are on the street. Quite a difference to what it was yesterday afternoon when I met you in this same spot. Then it was lighted by sunshine and alive with people and resounding with bustle and turmoil and trample of feet and jangle of wagons and the tinkle of street car bells and the hum of cheery voices. Now, everything is quiet and solemn and strange. As the city lies before you with its silent streets lined with tall and gloomy buildings, that take on a Mysterious character in the pale, cold moonlight as they stretch away along either side of the thoroughfares which, as far as you can see, are deserted, except for the solitary figure of a policeman standing like a bronze statue over there at the corner, and only adding an additional element of solitariness to the scene by his stately and dignified presence.”
        As Jehosaphat Jefferson made his way along the darkened streets of Hamilton in March, 1887, he thought about sleep and its effect on the city:
“Beneficent King Nod stretched his magic wand over the silent city that lies before you, and slowly and peacefully it has sunk into rest and stillness, as a fevered giant might under the charm of a soothing opiate – all the passions, prejudices, ambitious, the mental and physical energies of 40,000 people have stopped dead in their tracks.”
Reporter Jefferson headed towards the north end of the city :
“We will go down James street now. You see it stretching away down there to where the white frozen surface of the bay is glistening on one side of the street bathed in moonlight, and the other smothered in deep shadow that extends to the middle of the roadway. Do you notice how quiet it is; there is scarcely a sound of any kind to be heard, except the noise of our footsteps which awake the little echoes that go skipping along in advance of us, and riot among the gables of the tall buildings and fling themselves bodily against the resonant window panes as if they took a malicious delight in waking up the grave, dignified piles of architecture and wanted to show how much they despised a dull time.”
The reporter dropped into No. 1 police station at the city hall, but as nothing was doing there, he went back out on the street :
“The sky away over there in the east is beginning to have a brighter tinge than the rest, though it is a long time till daylight yet – Jeruslaem! What in creation has broke loose now? There is a deafening, strident, reverberating clang in the air above us, shattering the silence all into ‘pi’ and the sound waves go rolling down the empty streets like balls in a bowling alley, and bring up, with a rattle of echoes at the end. It is the clock in the bell tower striking the hour. Twice more the bell gives tongue and then in the stillness that follows, some vagrant rooster away over in Corktown toots its kazoo.”
The reporter then ran into a gang of drunken young men on their way home from the barroom :
“Ah me! But aren’t they a sick-looking crowd as they move slowly along, balancing themselves on the dizzy eminence of a twelve foot sidewalk?”
The large buildings in the downtown Hamilton area had a particularly threatening aspect to the Spectator man as he walked about the streets in the middle of the night:
“Do you notice how the buildings seem to take on an individuality at night that you never noticed when the streets were full of people? Some of them you imagine have a gaunt and hungry look, while other little fat structures have a bulging in their sides and a contented, sleepy look about them, as if they had gorged themselves with the little pygmies of humanity that throng around them in the daytime and were resting after it. The most of them have their blinds pulled close, but here and there a light burning dimly in an upstairs window makes the building look as if it was keeping one eye open.”
Jefferson noted that usually one could go up James street from King to Cannon street, and never meet a soul during the middle of the night, unless one ran into a gang of drunken toughs:
“They will sometimes try to pick a quarrel by purposely jostling you as you go through them, but if you keep cool and turn it off with a joke, you’re all right. Then, like as not, they become oppressively friendly and won’t let you go away until you go in somewhere and ‘take sumpin’ at the jostler’s expense.”
Occasionally, the reporter would meet a threesome walking along the late night streets, a gentleman with a young girl on his arm, her mother, “or a stout, old chaperon,” on the other arm:
“The chaperon is generally doing all the talking, and the young girl trips along with a dreamy look on her face, and her thoughts roaming off in a delicious reverie as she reviews the events of the evening in a mirage of girlish imagination. The group flits past, leaving the breath of delicate perfume in the air, and the reporter rambles on in another delicious reverie, while in the mirage of his imagination, there floats a dainty vision of a fleecy, white cloak, a pretty young face with a stray curl of gold on the cheek and a pair of lovely eyes that look out at him with a sparkle of innocent curiosity>”
Quite another type of young lady was seen passing along the street by herself :
“a rustle of rich silk, a jingle of bangles, the clicking step of a high-heeled bottine, a glitter of jewelry, a form, graceful and divinely tall, a close-wrapped cloak, a handsome, passionate face – now white and drawn – with a pair of eyes that burn like coals, approaches and a sickening odor of musk and cheap perfume fills the air as he hurries past, looking straight before her.”
The Spectator reporter finally decided to head home as he began to hear the market wagons beginning to rumble down the mountain.
Passing by a policeman on a corner, the reporter greeted him by saying:
“ ‘Good night, old hoss.’
“ ‘Good morning, you mean,’ replied the policeman. “Be off to your roosts, you young nighthawk, or I’ll run ye in.’

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Times Building - 1888

“Last evening, the new building of the Times Printing Company was decked with flags and flowers and thronged with the youth, beauty and innocence of the town, preparatory to being turned over to the use of devils and devoted to ways that are inky. (To prevent possible misunderstanding it may be necessary to explain that the latter part of the above sentence refers exclusively to the small and smutty urchins who run printing offices, bully reporters, patronize editors and set all creation at defiance.”
                   “A Housewarming”
                     Spectator. April 3, 1888.
          The formal opening of the Times Printing Company's new building, situated on the southwest corner of Hughson and King William streets in downtown Hamilton, was the occasion for a celebratory supper and dance.
          The new, red brick building, the design of Hamilton architect William Stewart, was three stories in height, with a 12 foot basement, the ceiling of which was some four feet above the level of the sidewalk:
          “The external appearance of the building is massive and bold in its treatment. It is well-proportioned, and presents a fine specimen of street architecture. It is surmounted with a pleasing design of galvanized cornice work, painted and sanded in imitation of Ohio freestone. Standing twenty-eight feet above the main roof is a flagstaff, surmounted with gold gilt mouldings and a gold gilt iron ball. Inside of this ball were placed by the acrchitect written upon vellum paper, a full list of the proprietors of the Times, the staff of the paper and other employees of the company, a list of the contractors for the building, including the name of the architect, also a copy of the daily and weekly Times and Spectator.”
          “Evening Times : Ready to Move into New Quarters”
             Evening Times. April 3, 1888.
          The ground floor window and the basement windows facing King William and Hughson streets were highly attractive, made of plate glass with wheel-cut ornamentation emblematic of Canada. Handsome gold-finished signs decorated the front of the building in provisions for the signs which had been included in the architect's overall design.
          The main entrance to the Times building was at the corner of Hughson and King William streets. This entrance led into hall, which opened to a newsboys' waiting room, mail room, bookkeepers' room, manager's room and wash room for the company's employees.
          Beyond the entrance hall, through two folding doors, was a large room, over 900 square feet in area, used as a general office:
          “The general office is handsomely finished in natural woods, varnished and polished and presents a very fine and cheerful appearance.  The ceiling of the general office is handsomely and heavily paneled and molded in stucco work, being divided off into ten separate panels. A neat and handsome counter extends the whole length of this room and is surmounted with a neat and ornamental brass and enriched plate glass railing, got up in the highest style of the art.” (Times)
          In the basement, the press room, boiler and engine room, coal vaults and ash pits were situated. Well-lighted and ventilated, the basement ran the whole length of the building.
          The second floor of the Times building contained the job room, while the news room was on the third floor. Also on the third floor were the reporters' and proof readers' rooms, several editorial rooms and wash rooms.
          Access to all floors was via steam elevator. Verbal communication throughout the building was possible via silver-mounted speaking tubes:
          “The Times Printing Company have not spared any expense in making this building as complete as possible for their own special business and for the general comfort and health of their employees, and the building, inside and outside, certainly reflects great credit upon all parties in connection with its erection.”
          Just before 8 p.m., Monday, April 2, 1888, lights were first turned on in the new Times building in anticipation of the arrival of those invited to the special grand opening supper and fancy dress ball:
          “The effect of a brilliant illumination with gas upon the colored decorations was marvelous. The whole of the second floor, with the exception of the ample dressing room for ladies, was devoted to the ball. Skillful fingers had made and willing hands had hung an abundance of flowers among the flags and bunting, which were displayed to the very best advantage.” (Times April 3, 1888)
          The decorations had transformed the second floor of the
 new Times building into a festive area for dancing. The unfurnished rooms with bare white walls had been covered with decorative touches :
           “Upon the walls hung the flags of great nations. Prominent, of course, was the Union Jack of Old England, with the Stars and Stripes of the United States, the German flag and many others draped and almost covering the walls. Small flags were set where they would look the prettiest. From the walls to the rows of pillars, bunting of every color was hung in festoons, looped up here and there with bunches of beautiful roses, peonies, poppies and wreathes of flowers. Overall were the rays of mellow light from the clusters of gas jets. The finest decorations of the ball-room were the company. A better-looking and better-dressed party of ladies and gentlemen have not been seen at any of the balls of the season.”
          Over 400 people danced throughout the evening to music supplied by J. B. Nelligan, beginning with the Grand March at 9:15 o'clock.
          While the second floor of the new Times Building was devoted to dancing, the third floor had been fitted up for the supper, catered by Newport:
          “Tables sufficient to accommodate 200 people were spread in the large room on the third floor. The walls and ceiling of the room were as white as snow, as were the table covers. The table decorations consisted of large, hot house plants and cut flowers which, with the elegant glass and silver ware and pyramids of Charlotte Russe jellies and other articles of the caterer's handiwork, made a scene that could not well be improved upon.”
          Also on the third floor, three rooms were set aside for euchre and other games, and each was occupied throughout the evening:
          “It was pleasant to leave the ball room for a few minutes, have a game of cards, and then return to the merry dance, to be succeeded by other sets at the euchre tables. Some played checkers, others dominoes; no one sat still for any length of time – it wasn't that sort of a ball – everyone was too full of enjoyment to be quiet.”
          The ceremonial opening of the Times Printing Company's grand new building  with a fancy dress ball and supper was deemed to be a grand success. The clock was nearly 3:45 a.m. When Nelligan's  band struck up “God Save the Queen” to announce the end of the festivities. The thoroughly satisfied, if tired, crowd then began to disperse.
          The following day, the Times editor, H. F. Gardiner, wrote a lengthy editorial, which appeared inder the headline, “Out of the Old Home Into the New'” in which he discussed the role of the Times in Hamilton:
          “The Times is a successful newspaper today because no pains of expense are spared to keep its readers informed of everything of importance that happens, whether at home or abroad, at the earliest possible moment. It discusses public topics fearlessly, and in the interests of the people as a whole. It presents the news of the city in an attractive form, and its local and foreign commercial intelligence can always be relied on. For these reasons, it enjoys the confidence of the advertising public, and in consequence of a steady pursuit of this policy, it is today in a position to congratulate itself and its patrons on having formally taken possession of its new commodious building. The old structure was good enough while the business of the institution was in comparative childhood, but it as been evident for a long time that the ever-increasing business of the Times Printing Company demanded more space. That room has been obtained in the handsome new structure now nearly completed. It has been the desire of the proprietors to provide such a building as will enable them in future to still more efficiently serve their patrons than they have been able to do in the past, while at the same time affording increased comfort to their employees. In this they have succeeded beyond a peradventure as the large number of citizens who are familiar with the old place of business and who have inspected the new can testify”
                   “Out of Old Home Into the New”
                       Evening Times. April 3, 1888.