Monday, May 3, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (minus the planes): An Art Moderne Adventure


I was delighted when blogger Blonde Episodes asked me if I would do a guest blog post for her blog.  The focus of the post was to be a vintage place I've visited or wanted to visit.   I'm reposting the guest post here (with a few extra photos):

This past weekend, the City of Hamilton was having a “Doors Open” event, which allowed all visitors free admission to all historical sites in the area, so my husband and I spent all day Saturday checking out as many of these sites as possible.  The one which I am going to blog about today is rather close to my heart because I’m such a lover of the 1930s.  Given this attachment to the 30s, at the top of my “places I must visit list” since moving across Canada last fall, has been the City of Hamilton’s GO Train station.  The reason: it is a rare Canadian Art Moderne (or Streamline Moderne) gem.  I still have to determine whether or not it is in fact true that it may be the only of its kind in Canada!



The exterior of the Go Centre (formerly the Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo Railway Co Statin) building is quite fantastic in my opinion.  Here is some interesting info about it from the website Forgotten Buffalo
An Art-Moderne gem in Hamilton, Ontario. Built in 1932-33, the Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway Station on Hunter Street represents one of the finest examples of “international” style architecture in North America. The original design for the new Hunter Street station consisted of a 10-story office tower with wings for the passenger facilities, and two platforms for passenger trains. However, as the Great Depression took its toll on the TH&B, the plans were reduced in size. The office tower was reduced to 7 stories (although it was built with the ability for the remaining three stories to be added at a later date), and the number of platforms was reduced to one. As well, a number of other features such as underground passageways were eliminated. The reduced size of the station resulted in an outcry from the city council, and it was only after the facade of the building was changed to more expensive stone, that the council approved the smaller structure in November 1932. Construction of the new station began in December 1932, and took 8 months to finish, with the official opening on June 26, 1933.




I’m told the interior of the building has undergone a massive overhaul since its 1933 opening.  However, one can tell that the designers have tried to stay true to the spirit of Art Moderne in their choice of fixtures.  According to Ontario Architecture, “[the site was refurbished by “Trevor Garwood-Jones and Associates, and it is absolutely glittering from top to bottom. All of the details are exactly reconstructed with period hardware where possible and with modern fixtures that portray the Art Moderne style when originals were not available. Even the bathrooms are stylistically perfect.  All the interior surfaces are elegantly curved. The finishes are chrome, wood, and marble.” 

My favourite “period hardware” feature was the one which appears to have been preserved from the original station: wooden benches in the waiting area.  What energy emanated from places like this. You can just imagine all the streams of souls who have passed through, conducting their lives that have now become brief passages in the grand annals of history.

Another feature of the older station which as been preserved is the Dispatch Room. I believe it dates from about the 1950s, but there is even older equipment in there, including old typewriters, morse code machines, and so forth.  A kind gent who had worked as a switch operator for over 30 years was on hand to tell us about how the train system used to run and he let me play "Lady Dispatcher" for a moment, which basically involved me randomly flicking switches and pressing buttons.

All in all, this was a fabulous exploration of train travel in the 30s.  I really enjoyed experiencing this link between an important piece of Canadian historical architecture and the international Art Moderne movement.

The capper to the day: just by pure coincidence, on our way out of the station, we spied someone’s old Ford parked across the street, so we rushed over for a quick snap of me standing by it.   Such fun!


Outfit: 1930s hat, 1930s shoes, 1930s dress, all from Etsy...

13 comments:

Cocò (daddysneatness) said...

wow it's a really interesting story! And you are so pretty in your dress! Xoxo

Darling L said...

Lovely dress! And what a nice coincidence to find that Ford! :)

Tess said...

Oh that looks like so much fun! I love that the Ford was there by coincidence. Great pictures, thanks so much for sharing!

Also, of course you look adorable.

Amanda said...

Darling pictures!

Best Wishes,
Amanda

Carys said...

Beautiful, beautiful outfit,I have never seen 30s style worn so well!
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

Gingeyginge said...

Thank you for your wonderful comment...Love the last photo of you...

Kelley Anne said...

This is so interesting. Thanks for doing this post. I love the old benches and the dispatch room and always enjoy going in old buildings that have retained their original character in some ways. There's a film theatre near where my parents live that was built in 1926 that I used to visit every few weeks with my sister. Maybe I'll do a similar post after we fly down in August to see the newly released version of Metropolis there.

Maggi said...

What a fun looking place! You look fabulous!

BaronessVonVintage said...

It was a fun day, indeed, and we could not believe our luck with the 30s(?) Ford outside!

Kind thanks for your sweet words on my outfit, dolls!!!

Emily said...

Love the "Lady Dispatcher" picture! So adorable!!

BomshellShocked said...

Well aren't you just the cutest "Lady Dispatcher"!

Shelby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
1930s Girls About Town said...

Neat building! You look great, too.