Perspectives - Fall 2012 - (Page 30)
A Window on Beauty
ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT: THE PASS SHOP, PART OF A HISTORIC BLOCK ON JOHN ST. SOUTH, HAMILTON; TOP RESTORED WOOD FRAME AND SASH BASEMENT WINDOW; BOTTOM VINYL AND ALUMINUM REPLACEMENT WINDOW; HISTORIC OAK DOORS UNDER REPAIR USING ORIGINAL TOOLS AND METHODS BELOW: RESTORED DOUBLE HUNG WINDOWS ON SECOND FLOOR OF THE PASS SHOP PHOTOS: RICK MATELJAN
THERE IS ALMOST NO “PLACE” in Ontario that is not somehow defined or whose origin cannot be traced to what has gone before it. Our cities continue to be shaped by the decisions of citizens long past, but whose influence lives on in ways they could never have imagined. This is the beauty of cultural history and its cousin, the cultural landscape. Heritage buildings and their landscapes can be beautiful in a number of ways. Some appreciate the historical aesthetic, the patinas, the styles and the settings. For others, the beauty lies in its relevance to local events, family ties and signiﬁcant rituals. Some are just pretty to look at. What makes a building ugly or beautiful? Perhaps in part it is the craftsman’s intuitive ability to blend form and function. An early 20th-century basement window was little more than a means to provide ventilation. Some are much more than this, though. The example shown has been purposely crafted to the golden ratio and its panes are divided again into the same proportion. Its pleasing nature and the bead and quirk detail around the frame draw the eye to the window. One cannot look away.
The older neighbourhoods in our cities were once full of windows such as this but they are slowly being lost in the name of efﬁciency and modernization. The replacements are
sterile and institutional and will need replacement again in 20 years. Consider that the restored wood window with properly ﬁtting weather seals and a storm window offers thermal efﬁciencies at least as good as a new PVC window. The wood window has already lasted 100 years and with maintenance can last another 100 years, not only providing protection from weather and allowing in natural light, but also remaining a part of the historic fabric and record. Beautiful! Modern PVC windows appear to be a maintenance-free solution but are not entirely problem-free. They have a limited lifespan as they cannot easily be repaired or recycled. In addition, the manufacturing process of polyvinyl chloride poses major hazards in product life, manufacturing and disposal. Recently I had the privilege of restoring the windows of the former watchmaker Edwin Pass’s shop—a man whose family had repaired watches from 1885 until a few years ago. This is the only building in this historic Hamilton neighbourhood that still retains almost all of its original fabric, including its original façade with the storefront, double door and original wood windows. Having the opportunity to work with material that was crafted by people who lived in this community before me is a gratifying experience. The original 125-yearold wood windows with their slim muntin bar detailing are more pleasing proportionally than anything they could have been replaced by and the wood is ﬁrst growth—far superior to woods available today. The Pass property has a rich, layered history. It is located near King Street, now a major road, but historically an aboriginal trail that existed before European settlement. The land was once owned by George Hamilton, the city founder. An original rubble-stone wall still exists and, in it, a wooden door head still embedded in the original lime mortar. All of this is important to Robin McKee, who bought the property cont inued on page 29.
OAA PERSPECTIVES|FALL 2012
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Fall 2012
Perspectives - Fall 2012