A sneak peek inside Auchmar House,
It doesn’t get much better than this for local heritage enthusiasts who got to tour the usually closed-tothe-public Auchmar Estate — except maybe for seeing the 163-yearold mansion restored.
Gayle Livingstone was one of 2,400 weekend visitors to Auchmar during the city’s Canada 150 Open House who couldn’t resist taking pictures of the grand old rooms with their iPhones.
“They don’t build them like this anymore, that’s for sure,” she says after snapping a photo of a wall lighting scone with a cameo-shaped mirror with a small fairy person painted on it, in what appears to have been an child’s elegant bedroom.
“It’s just such a treat to see this, compared to all the crap they build now.”
Livingstone has been to Auchmar twice in the past during a rare open house — the last one in 2012 — “because I love it. It’s such a beautiful building.”
The city acquired Auchmar and its 3.8 hectares 16 years ago to save it from being turned into a subdivision.
Livingstone is quick to admit that among Hamilton’s heritage buildings, Auchmar is her favourite.
There’s no doubt it is also Jennifer Douglas’ favourite — because for Douglas, visiting Auchmar for the first time on Saturday was deeply personal.
“I heard stories growing up of this being my grandmother’s childhood home,” she says after touring the place. “This is just another window into her life for me … I get a special warmth going through here.”
Her grandmother Gwyneth Young McColl, who passed away in January at age 98, was the daughter of A.V. Young, owner of the Hamilton Cotton Company, who bought the estate in 1926.
Gwyneth lived in the house until she married, and her wedding was held on the Auchmar grounds, Douglas says.
“You could almost hear the echoes of voices. I just get that feeling of nostalgia.”
She’s heard stories of ballroom dances and celebrations filled with family, friends and orchestras at the house.
“My grandmother would say there’d be women dancing until the sun came up,” she says. “It just takes you back to a time that doesn’t exist anymore. People just don’t live like this anymore.”
Douglas did more than visit Auchmar on Saturday. She attended the Friends of Auchmar public meeting in the manor, just prior to the open house, where she shared her grandmother’s memories with the 80 people there — and heard more stories from Doug Embelton, who grew up in the Gate House on the estate.
“The one story told was of my grandmother and her sister taking their pony upstairs to their parents’ bedroom to surprise them,” Douglas says. “I just thought that was hilarious. They must have been around six and eight years-old. He (Embelton) said Mr. Young (my great-grandfather) was curious at the time about how they would get the horse back down the stairs.”
It’s the first time in six years that the Friends have been able to meet at Auchmar, said president Diane Dent.
It has been closed for several years for restoration of its exterior, said the city’s Carolyn Samko, with planning and economic development.
Visitors on the weekend were “so excited” to see the estate and “very proud” of it, Samko said.
“We had such wonderful comments throughout the weekend.”
The latest proposal for the 1854 Gothic manor and grounds at Fennell Avenue West and West 5th Street has been to lease it to a trust linked to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for $14 million in exchange for restoring and repurposing it into a regimental museum, guest house, brew pub and public park. There has been no decision yet.
Hundreds turned out Saturday for a rare glimpse into the storied home, which dates back to 1854. The city acquired it 16 years ago.
Auchmar House was built in the Gothic style.
On the large 3.8-hectare property, old stone ruins and walls.