A sneak peek inside Auch­mar House,

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

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.


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