Beach History Link

scotto

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The Beach Strip
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The beach strip * “the heritage of the people closed against them,” 1870*1970

Sent in by David
_____________________________
Waterfront Landscapes for the Industrial City: Environment, Recreation, and Class in Hamilton Ontario's Burlington Bay, 1919 -2004 NANCY B. BOUCHIER and KEN CRUIKSHANK

THE BEACH STRIP "THE HERITAGE OF THE PEOPLE CLOSED AGAINST THEM," 1870-1970 In the summer of 1828, when the English travel writer Basil Hall encountered the Burlington BeachStrip en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto, he called its waterfront landscape a "most extraordinary thing." (Hall, p. 253) The Burlington Canal had just been built, connecting the lake and the bay, and a small community already had begun to emerge on the beach strip. Lake Ontario's waters teemed with herring, whitefish, trout and salmon. Small fishing stations could be found along the beach strip's sandy shores, while the rich soils of its bay side shore provided good land for growing produce. By the mid 1840s, a community of squatters populated the small fishing and market gardening community on the beach, working out their own system of property rights although without formal legal title to their land (Johns, 1945, p. 34). Within two decades fishers were paying license fees to the Crown for the right to fish, and selling their catches to Hamilton's growing population across the bay (Cruikshank and Bouchier, 2001).
With the rise of the industrial city, Hamilton residents began to look to the beach strip as a summer recreational destination for those who could afford it. Small steamers travelled between Hamilton and resorts, hotels, and taverns there, where people could swim, fish, and soak up the sun. In the 1870s the city took control of this small fishing and farming community, contending that the area should be preserved for "the health and welfare of the people." The people, it turned out, initially were Hamilton's most well to do residents, who, like other elites throughout the province, eagerly sought a private summer refuge from the heat, dirt and people of an industrializing city(Wolfe, 1962). After getting possession of all of the vacant Crown land, the city turned around and sold it to members of Hamilton's social elite. They, in turn, paid annual rents for beach development, but the privatizing of public lands, as the local lighthouse keeper lamented, deprived the people of "the free use of the beach." When, in 1874 railway promoters managed to get a rail line between Toronto, Hamilton and the Niagara peninsula along the beach strip, the place would be forever changed.
Between 1875 and 1900, the city of Hamilton formally controlled around one third of the total land area of the beach strip, with about one fifth already leased to private individuals. It created six short landscaped avenues allowing for further property development while ensuring that those who had built summer residences would continue to be able to reach the lake through orderly and restful parks. Many members of Hamilton's social elite constructed grand summer homes there, a few of which still stand today. The Royal Hamilton Yacht Club's new clubhouse, built on a prime bay side location beside the canal, was a 'gem' of a building (Penny, 1988). Its socially restricted members enjoyed all of the amenities of club life, while to the general public, the club house was both conspicuous and inaccessible. Hamilton's social elite thus exhibited a well established tradition, one which historian John R. Stilgoe describes in his work on borderlands. Their summer residences outside of the industrial and commercial city lay "beyond the effluvium of smoke and mud" (Trotter, cited in Stilgoe, 1988, p.42). Hamilton's politicians pandered to the social and aesthetic tastes of this group, while removing popular amusement facilities for less well*heeled visitors. As a writer from the Spectator noted approvingly, "the beach is now beginning to be what it can and ought to be, a well*planned and, well*laid out summer resort, in every way restful to the mind, body and eye."
Within a generation, however, city residents of more modest means challenged the aristocratic seclusion of the beach when electric street railway cars began connecting the city with the beach strip. They carried two million passengers to the beach each year, mostly during the summer months. xxii Beyond making it possible for more Hamilton residents to visit the beach on weekends, the relatively inexpensive street railway allowed people of moderate means to go and live by the water.
http://conferences.ncl.ac.uk/unescolandscapes/files/BOUCHIERNancy CRUIKSHANKKen.pdf
 

scotto

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Continued....
In 1907, the Ontario provincial government struck a special government for the beach strip led by a three person commission, to establish and administer health, park development, policing, public utilities and other regular municipal policies in the area (McCowell,et al, pp. 16 -30). xxv Its development of parks land represented a significant recognition of the public's right to the benefits of the beach strip. Noulan Cauchon's 1917 town plan for Hamilton supported the struggle for beaches and parks open to a wider public. He considered the beach strip to be one of Hamilton's "jewels in the gift of nature awaiting acknowledgement by the hand of man" (Cauchon, p.55). The final shape of that public space designed at that hand, however, appears to have been consistent with an older vision of what were considered to be the beach's recreational purposes. Rather than provide facilities for informal, inclusive activities like picnic grounds, ice cream stands, baseball diamonds or an amusement park the new park featured more sedate amenities like an elaborate promenade lined with street lamps and little pagodas, so that pedestrians could sedately rest and contemplate the nature around them.
Yet the future of the beach as a recreational space would be dramatically altered in the years to come. Increasing levels of water and air pollution, and the use of the beach strip as an automobile transportation corridor between the Niagara peninsula and Toronto, severely threatened to close the heritage of the people against them. Undrinkable even after being treated, the water had pollution levels that undermined even water based recreation. Because Lake Ontario frequently was quite cold, the warmer waters of the bay always had been more attractive for swimmers. By 1925, beach residents complained that oil from automobiles ruined their bayside swimming. A 1923 study of the impact of sewage disposal on the bay found a count of 300 coliform organisms per 100 millilitres of water near the canal. xxviii After the industrial boom generated by World War II, these numbers rose to unacceptable levels. In 1947, more than 2290 per 100 millilitres could be found, and, by 1958, this rose to 11,500 per 100 millilitres.
With its appeal as a vacation spot by the water's edge waning, the beach emerged as an attractive spot for permanent residences, particularly during postwar housing shortages following both World Wars (MacDonald, 1992). People of modest means winterized existing cottages, attracted by the fixed tax rate and low assessments of the area. The permanent beach community, which likely never exceeded 200 people during the nineteenth century, rose to over 1000 immediately after World War I, and to 2000 after World War II. By the early 1950s, its population rose to over 3000. By then, an estimated 2000 cars and trucks crossed the narrow beach strip road every hour during the summer months. This caused tremendous bottlenecks for Niagara * Toronto traffic. The development of the automobile thus altered people's perceptions of the beach strip and stimulated new kinds of activity in that community. Heavy traffic required the building of the first Burlington Bay Skyway Bridge, officially opened in 1958, for which 93 homes were expropriated and demolished. A second bridge followed in 1985. Both bridges enabled large ships to pass from Lake Ontario into the Bay without disrupting traffic.
In just thirty years then, a region whose recreational purposes had been long contested, ceased to be perceived as a significant recreational space at all. When elite and middle class vacationers abandoned the beach,they left behind a marginalised, increasingly working*class community. Few thought of the beach strip as a healthy or restorative area * after all, who wants to live under a highway or so close to dirty, grimy steel factories? By the 1960s, local community groups like the Burlington Beach Property Owners Association began documenting the industrial fallout that seriously damaged their homes and health (McCowell et al, 32). In 1973, flooding from Lake Ontario severely damaged some beach homes, and local health authorities ended up condemning many of them (Mooreet al, 1987). xxxii Believing the area to be unsuitable for a residential community, the local Conservation Authority aimed to transform the beach strip into one large recreational space. xxxiii It bought people's homes and properties and began razing them to make way for park land.
By 1980, just a century*or*so after the city of Hamilton first endeavoured to transform the area into a waterfront landscape for the industrial city, the history of the beach had turned a full circle. Once again, the city neglected the property rights of beach strip dwellers, marginalizing them in the pursuit of waterfront parks development. xxxiv But this time beach dwellers, like members of the Hamilton Beach Property Owners Association, openly and successfully resisted and challenged the city's plans. They suggested an alternative vision of their community. Rather than creating a parkland devoid of human habitation, local residents insisted that the city explore ways to revitalize recreation and ensure public access to the beach, but also to sustain the small but vital permanent community that continued to call the beach home (Ames et al, 1982). Recently historic plaques have marked the history of the beach strip for the Hamilton Beach 175th Anniversary Project. They show a spirit of cooperation between the parties involved. Visitors to the beach strip today are welcomed by little flower gardens along the streets, created and maintained by members of the Hamilton Beach Garden Club, who aim to keep the beach a place of beauty. As one Spectator reported noted, the
beach strip, which had been, "for many years, an endangered species, living under the axe of city plans" is beginning to blossom once again as a recreational waterfront landscape.

http://conferences.ncl.ac.uk/unescol...IKSHANKKen.pdf
 

missy2013

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Aug 27, 2013
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715 - Studio 3 - lakeside
#10
Always interesting insight ... It is a pity that those on the other side of the Lift Bridge in Burlington have basically had their modest 'cottage' homes expropriated by Halton Conservation/City of Burlington. Sure, 'market value', but that cant replace memories or 'home' for those few now remaining.

The design plans for that proposed 'park' are grand. Amusement, entertainment & 'heritage'. Some interesting links can be found here - http://www.burlington.ca/en/your-ci...-a_new_approach_to_heriatge_in_burlington.pdf

Lets hope Hamilton doesn't get any 'bright ideas' and ruin the remaining public access beach strip.
Mega homes are already popping up - each more 'impressive' then the last ... no fences yet.
As long as the BEACH remains 'public',that is, in fact, a legacy for all.
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
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The Beach Strip
#11
Always interesting insight ... It is a pity that those on the other side of the Lift Bridge in Burlington have basically had their modest 'cottage' homes expropriated by Halton Conservation/City of Burlington. Sure, 'market value', but that cant replace memories or 'home' for those few now remaining.

The design plans for that proposed 'park' are grand. Amusement, entertainment & 'heritage'. Some interesting links can be found here - http://www.burlington.ca/en/your-ci...-a_new_approach_to_heriatge_in_burlington.pdf

Lets hope Hamilton doesn't get any 'bright ideas' and ruin the remaining public access beach strip.
Mega homes are already popping up - each more 'impressive' then the last ... no fences yet.
As long as the BEACH remains 'public',that is, in fact, a legacy for all.
Many years ago the City wanted to do the same on the Hamilton side but were stopped by the residents of the Beach, the difference being that the cottages on the Burlington side were on leased land and the owners did know that the lease was going to run out.
This is also how we ended up with Confederation Park, the City bought what they could, then expropriated the rest.

(IMO)The City of Hamilton will never make the beach private.
 

missy2013

Registered User
Aug 27, 2013
40
0
0
715 - Studio 3 - lakeside
#12
Many years ago the City wanted to do the same on the Hamilton side but were stopped by the residents of the Beach, the difference being that the cottages on the Burlington side were on leased land and the owners did know that the lease was going to run out.
This is also how we ended up with Confederation Park, the City bought what they could, then expropriated the rest.

(IMO)The City of Hamilton will never make the beach private.
Hope so!!

Hey, have you seen the sign for 'Harry's Pub' ? - Facebook rumor has it it's opening in July ... though another has said it was just a 'sign re-seller' having some fun with the 'blank space' ... Not sure what's happening there. But certainly an interesting 'development' ...
 

scotto

Administrator
Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
6,431
45
48
The Beach Strip
#13
Hope so!!

Hey, have you seen the sign for 'Harry's Pub' ? - Facebook rumor has it it's opening in July ... though another has said it was just a 'sign re-seller' having some fun with the 'blank space' ... Not sure what's happening there. But certainly an interesting 'development' ...
From what I have heard, it will open for one day (Garage Sale) then close until the grand opening.
Updates will be posted here;
http://hamiltonbeachcommunity.com/forum/showthread.php?2472-New-Pub-on-the-Beach
 
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