The Pasadena reborn as condos after blaze
The Pasadena, one of Hamilton’s first and finest apartment buildings (1914), had a terrible 100th anniversary two years ago. It lit up like a birthday cake, then burned stubbornly through a long night, despite the best efforts of firefighters.
They finally quelled the blaze. But in the morning and long after, many feared the city had lost the heritage treasure. The structure held, as did the distinctive facade. But the inside suffered profound damage. For a year, it was derelict. You should see it now. Actually, you can. Paven Bratch and Metro Partners, the development company he founded to save The Pasadena, are launching the push to sell the 32 condominium units taking shape in the once-ruined interior.
There’s a private event Wednesday but interested people can now arrange visits and register at thepasadena.ca or call 289-426-5827.
Paven and I stand in front of the art nouveau-tinged masterpiece.
You can still see scars of the fire on the exterior brick (it’ll be cleaned) but inside the place is honeycombed with work nodes and busy crews.
They’re bringing up an original fireplace here, restoring an old staircase there, salvaging everything original they can.
Paven recalls the fire well. He owns Radius Restaurant, a block away. He would often walk past in the aftermath and see not the charred shell of a gutted ruin but the way ahead — to a second chance for a great old neighbour.
He would envision its future place in the necklace of James Street South and its estuaries like Duke, Bold and Augusta.
If only the building could be restored, its architectural heritage kept intact, but with modern amenities like in-floor heating, everything up to code; no unwanted anachronisms like behemoth boilers in the basement. (“It was an oil fire in the old boiler, big as a steam engine” that started the fire, Paven says.)
“Ifonly’s”areonly“if’s”unless something gets done, so Paven and Metro Partners bought the building. They worked with the city.
Now it’s a question of when and not if. And when is now. I stand on the rooftop with Paven. The vista is spectacular.
“We’re putting in a rooftop patio,” Paven says, then points outward along the sightlines, the tree canopy, the neo-Gothic look of St. Paul’s Presbyterian spire and other area buildings, art galleries, the aggregation of restaurants, Durand neighbourhood unfolding in one direction, downtown in another, the art deco GO hub in yet another.
“There’ll be a lounge, dining area. The rooftop will be the epicentre for summertime socials.”
This milieu — the whole James Street South experience, pivoting around the gorgeous limestone terrace, from Hunter to the hospital — has special relevance. Paven’s father, Yogi Bratch, ran Yogi’s IDA pharmacy at Augusta and James for decades.
Hence Radius’s location (directly across Augusta). I remember him taking me through the grand reno there (it was Isaac Buchanan’s old downtown home) five years ago.
Here we are in another one — the Pasadena.
We stand at the top of the magnificent old, red oak, spiral staircase corkscrewing up the central height of the building’s atrium, culminating in a skylight.
“It’s the original handrail,” says Paven. It survived somehow but the spindles are being replaced, to meet modern standards. The building has so much else. Nine-foot-high ceilings, period tile, wrought-iron balconies, handcrafted touches like the masonry and restored wood and glass front doors, exposed brick, moulded plaster beams, herringbone wood floors.
Perhaps the most striking features are the twin ground-to-roof bays projecting from the exterior front walls, patterned brick with pale insets and large cornices. Originally built as a luxury residence, it hailed a new era of urban living at the time.
The Pasadena’s restoration, Paven hopes, will usher forth another new urban era, one in which future and past, culture and comfort, harmonize.
The renovation is designed by award-winning Hamilton architect Richard Lintack.
Reaching new heights in magnificence: Paven Bratch stands on the grand old Pasadena spiral staircase.
A fire ripped through The Pasadena on Bold Street, just west of James Street South, in February 2014.
The facade of The Pasadena, pictured here in January 2015, was largely spared in the February 2014 fire, but the inside was badly damaged.