The Quaint Central Business District

The Quaint Central Business District

Dundas is a large old style suburb on the western end of Hamilton. Most of it sits in a valley below the Niagara Escarpment.

My wife Kim spent the earliest part of her childhood living on her grandparent’s farm on Old Lions Club Road; what seems to have essentially been the border between Dundas and Ancaster, another of Hamilton’s constituent communities. Most people in Hamilton don’t have to be remotely interested in local history to know that key to the development of this major city was its steel industry that began in the late 1800’s and kept going until the beginning of the 21st century. I wasn’t aware; however, how Dundas specifically came to be.

I’ve shopped in Dundas, walked around in Dundas, visited its parks, done photography there and sold art from a gallery that used to be there. Still, I didn’t really know anything about the community beyond what I had heard through television news reports since 1989.

One day I asked Kim what she knew about the history of Dundas. She tried to tell me but out came a lot of vague stuff. I wasn’t looking to publish a paper or anything, I’m not a major history buff and I wasn’t planning to move there. I just wanted to satisfy my curiosity about the place. That’s how I am. As usual I had to hit the books, maybe ask around and find a local historian or historical society. Somebody had to know. Isn’t that kind of information important to someone besides me? This is my little story of discovering Dundas, Ontario.

As is usual for this project, I started with the oldest history that I could find and worked my way towards tomorrow. Skipping over the geological record that the receding Wisconsin glaciations of the last Ice Age created the Dundas Valley, my adventure starts with the earliest white settlers in the 1700’s.

The Piper

The Piper

Forced Immigration

Caucasians came to these lands of the northwest corner of Lake Ontario at a time when the Ojibwe and Iroquois in the region had just managed to establish peace between them. American’s and British had begun to clash over dominance of the North American continent.

After the Ojibwe granted peace to the nearly decimated Iroquois, the Nanfan Treaty was established on July 19, 1701 between Lieutenant John Nanfan; Britain’s Acting Governor of the Province of New York (1698 – 1702) and the Iroquois Confederacy. The treaty was a formal deed granted from the Five Nations; a cultural League consisting of the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Mohawk tribes, to King William of England of their western hunting grounds. It’s also known as the Treaty of Albany as it was signed in Albany, New York.

The territory is considerable, extending from the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron southward to Ohio’s Allegheny Plateaus, and from present-day western New York westward to Quadoge or present-day Chicago, Illinois. Hamilton is pretty much dead-centre in these lands. During the Beaver Wars of the 1670s, the Five Nations had conquered much of this area, although they in fact lost effective control of most of it to the Algonquian tribes assisted by the French by 1701. Despite this Iroquois sale of all the lands they had lost, the English were slow to settle and develop the region. The British later used the Nafan Treaty; nevertheless, to assert British sovereignty in the territory during conflicts with the French.

When the Tuscarora joined the successful Five Nations in 1722, the cultural league became the Six Nations. The new league and the British amended the Nanfan Treaty on September 14, 1726 with effects that impact Dundas to this day. I’ll tell you a little about this further down.

Many of the American newcomers to this point of Lake Ontario were Royalists, Americans who allied themselves with the British. There were also Americans who were associated with the Royalists because although they refused to fight with the British, they were still forced from their lands on account of also refusing to take up arms against the British.

So Terribly Wounded

So Terribly Wounded

Remember, the nation we know today as Canada didn’t exist at that time, and the US/Canadian border was quite undefined even though the United States had declared itself a nation in 1776. Long after putting down roots here, the whites coming up from the south continued to call themselves Americans, not Canadians, regardless of any political dissention with their countrymen.

During the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the occurrence of Americans harassing and driving off Royalists and associated Royalists from their homes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states was in fact a brutal American against American conflict. Clearly, these old ties to the US must be partly why Canada has always been quite Americanized culturally.

After a peace treaty between Britain and the US was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783, American refugees were regarded as British subjects and were called the United Empire Loyalists by Britain. Being officially recognized as Loyalists, even in those circumstances when they in fact were not, permitted the refugees to apply for land grants. These were parcels of land that the British had previously “purchased” from the aboriginal people of the region; such as the Nanfan Treaty, as a display of recognizing the rights of the native Indians.

The Loyalists first began to settle into the valley in 1787.

The Wind-Up

The Wind-Up

Developing an Identity

With its gorgeous waterfalls (Websters, Tews, Lower Tews and Borer’s), freshwater creeks, marshes and wide variety of birds this rugged and bushy wilderness valley was a virtual Garden of Eden below the Niagara Escarpment. The land above seemed ideal for agriculture (although 1788 may have been a difficult year for farming due to specific reasons I do not yet know). That’s how Dundas was settled by the whites but back then this area wasn’t yet known as Dundas.

It was during the late 1700’s that a British officer stationed at Fort George (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) became known for frequently hunting the waterfowl that arrived in the vast marshlands of this part of present day Hamilton during migration seasons to rest and feed. This officer was Captain Thomas Coote, and the wetlands being settled by the Americans was originally known as Coote’s Paradise; a name that is still used today in reference to the natural conservation areas of Dundas.

Now, there is a minor discrepancy today between some of the inhabitants of the cities of Hamilton and nearby Burlington. That is the argument over the official name of the body of water at the west-by-northwest tip of Lake Ontario. Both cities share this wedge of water lying west of the Skyway Bridge. If you live in Burlington, you might be inclined to call this body of water Burlington Bay. If you live in Hamilton; however, you’ll probably refer to it as Hamilton Harbour. It is possible to find modern day maps that use either term. I’m a Hamiltonian, so guess what I call it? Back in the 1700’s it was known as Lake Geneva.

The Shadow Man

The Shadow Man

On July 16, 1792 John Graves Simcoe (b. February 25, 1752 – d. October 26, 1806) of the British Army, and first Lieutenant Governor of the British colony of Upper Canada (1791-1841), in fact proclaimed that Lake Geneva would forever more be called Burlington Bay. He also declared that an old Indian trail and portage route from the east through Cootes Paradise and the Mohawk tribal village to where it intersects with what Simcoe renamed the Thames River in the west would be the dividing line between the counties of York (the seat of present day Toronto) along the northeast shore of Lake Ontario, and Lincoln (the seat of present day Welland, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls) along the southeast shore.

In the following year, Simcoe established Coote’s Paradise as a Garrison Town, and made his dividing line a military road with another garrison town; present day London, established at the opposite end of his dividing line. On this military road and the Thames, he intended to transport troops and supplies to Lake Erie if the United States should ever attack Upper Canada and gain control of the water routes of the Great Lakes system. Actually called Governor’s Road, the route was renamed Dundas Street by Simcoe after his friend Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, a Scottish lawyer and politician who never once set foot in North America. This became the name of the entire route from Coote’s Paradise to the town of York; the present day city of Toronto, 64 kilometres (40 miles) away. The portion of the route heading west from near the centre of the valley continues to be called Governor’s Road to this day.

There seems to be a presumption amongst local history sources that none of the newcomers to Coote’s Paradise seem to have been “friends” or acquaintances. In the era of mere survival, only the most rudimentary community developed.

Spencer Creek

Spencer Creek

Making an Impact

A sawmill built by the Morden family prior to 1799 was the first of a number of mills that were established on the waterfalls of the area. Milling is said to have been Coote’s Paradise’s first industry. History sources indicate that approximately forty-five persons lived in the valley of Coote’s Paradise by 1800, and that the ruggedness of the land still made living quite tough in the fledgling community. The community; nevertheless, continued to grow.

Between 1820 and 1829, business increased considerably for the fledgling village making it both self-supportive, and an important place of commerce among the Great Lakes.

It seems that despite its importance, it remained untouched by the ravages of war. Although Simcoe had died in 1806, the governor’s road was indeed used as he planned during the War of 1812 but that seems to have been it. It seems as though Coote’s Paradise was never a place of battle or occupation.

Financial opportunity attracted more white settlers. Coote’s Paradise was renamed to Dundas after 1814, and by 1829, the population had grown to nearly 530. From 1830 to 1832, Dundas was the most important village west of York.



Economic Declination

The significance of Dundas quickly waned after three important developments came about on the western end of Lake Ontario. Firstly, recurring landslides, since 1828 with the construction of the first phase of the Welland Canal (1824 – 1829) to the southeast were overcome. Secondly, the Grand River, further west of Dundas, was made navigable from Brantford to Lake Erie. Thirdly, the Burlington Beach Canal was widened and made deeper so that ships that were too large to pass through nearby Desjardins Canal could enter Hamilton’s deep water harbour. These were all major factors in steering business away from Dundas, and opening doors for the communities of Brantford and Hamilton in their efforts to advance.

The Dundas Historical Society wrote in 1965 that the most disheartening event was when the rivaling neighbour population of Hamilton exceeded that of Dundas in 1833 for the first time. Hamilton was incorporated as a fully fledged town by June 9, 1846. This was how towns were created back then. Dundas finally became incorporated in 1847 as part of Wentworth County but would always remain a small community dependent on the industrial success of Hamilton for its survival.

After the passing of the Constitution Act of 1867, the Dundasians would forevermore be also known as Ontarians and Canadians.

Created in 1816, Wentworth County consisted of seven townships. In 1973, this County was replaced by the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. Against much opposition from the six urban, suburban and rural areas (Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Hamilton, and Stoney Creek) of Hamilton-Wentworth, the Ontario Provincial Government lead by the Progressive Conservative Party amalgamated all of the constituent communities into “megacity” Hamilton in 2001, as a step in making the province more efficiently run. Dundas Town Council was dissolved but Dundas Town Hall continues to be used by the replacement Dundas Community Council (DCC); an advisory faction. The head of the DCC is also the area councilor in Hamilton City Hall. The bedroom community has remained a constituent community of Hamilton ever since.

I find that the people of Dundas are very proud regardless of the amalgamation. Perhaps more so since 2001 than previously, the name and history of Dundas has been of greater importance to at least some of its denizens. On occasion, I still hear some Dundasians and residents of other rural areas refer to Hamilton as though it were a completely separate entity. That’s the social aspect. The physical distance between both is not much more than a hop, skip and a jump, and politically there is no separation at all.

On the Outskirts

On the Outskirts

Supernatural Dundas

Since the 1930’s, the striking marshlands on Dundas’ eastern side is reportedly the largest wetland at the western end of Lake Ontario, and is still called Cootes Paradise (notice the drop of the apostrophe). What has changed is that it is now owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) which also owns 980 hectares (2,422 acres) of nature sanctuary, marshland and otherwise, around the Dundas Valley.

Much of Dundas’ remaining terrain to the east and north is controlled by the Dundas Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) — an arm of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA). Included are 40 kilometres (25 miles) of absolutely spectacular nature walking trails blazed through the Niagara Escarpment, and the head of a recreational rail trail that leads off to the towns of Brantford and Cambridge.

Walking the network of man-made trails is what people around these parts call “hiking”. Coming from north-central British Columbia where walking in the bush means hacking your way through with a knife or cutlass, and frequently ascending and descending steep cliffs and hills, it’s hard for me to refer to these southern Ontario excursions as “hiking”. I used to feel that in order for me to “hike” I had to drive for a few hours into northern Ontario with my wife. A real good friend of ours who has a passion for wildlife, and who used to work at the African Lion Safari in Rockton, introduced me to the Dundas portion of the Bruce Trail back in 2002. To this day, I’m still amazed that so much natural beauty still exists just on the periphery of this big city.

Living in Hamilton in the 70’s, I was never really exposed to this aspect of the steeltown. I never really considered that the bush hadn’t all been overrun by modern development and continued to be readily accessible. Our friend breathed life back into my interest in taking nature walks – I mean “hikes”. My best treks, so far, have been going off trail to travel the rocky streams and sheer riveen walls that wind their ways to the bottoms of Tew’s and Borer’s falls. These routes are extremely rugged and offer sufficient challenges, even for people used to “hiking” in western Canada.

For any Hamiltonian or visitor who may be interested in “hiking” the trails please take care. Going off trail is possible but not recommended, and signs are posted in many places to warn people that even using the established trails is to be done at their own risk.

Good Clean Fun

Good Clean Fun

During a light snow flurry in January 2009, I relied on my experience of living in BC and went off of the Ginger Valley Trail which is part of RBG property around the Cootes Paradise wetlands. I descended a hill to a semi-frozen section of the marsh between the hilly peninsulas of Sassafras and Princess Points; parts of a section of land labeled on some city survey maps as “Cootes Paradise B”, and stuck to shoreline tracks that were made by someone who had evidently been there already. I was no more than one kilometre away from the residential neighbourhood of Westdale.

A woman exploring the area for the first time with her dog Duke had also gone down to the marsh and had decided to simply follow wherever her dog happily went. My wife, who was at home, briefly called me on cell phone, and mere seconds after hanging up with her I heard the woman call out, “Can you help me please?” She was about one hundred and thirty meters (one hundred feet) away and sunk into the marsh up to her knees.

After carefully making my way over to her, and being mindful of Duke who growled at every move I made in their direction, I was able to help her break free but she lost her right boot in the process. She called her husband by cell to let him know where she was, and to come and get her. He was said to be walking somewhere around Princess Point (some 5-minutes drive away).

We tried to dig her boot out but the smelly marsh and surrounding snow wouldn’t have it. Just as well, it would have been unhealthy for her to put her foot back inside of that boot. Today, Cootes is an area of ongoing critical repair under the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (HHRAP) of 1992 due to a combination of natural environmental processes, the introduction of feral carp species into nearby Hamilton Harbour; or should I say Burlington Bay, and heavy industrial and residential polluting up until the late 80’s. Despite improvements, it’s not yet entirely safe water to be in.

I recommended that she say goodbye to the boot forever. It’s a very good thing she had doubled up her thermal socks. I lead her back up to the top of the ridge and saw her off.

Where she was stuck off trail was a very isolated place. It’s a good thing I happened to still be down in that area at that time because although she maintained a cool head, she may have had a very difficult time escaping that bog. I think it would have also been very difficult for anyone to find her. No one would have been able to hear her call out from down below the surrounding hills to pinpoint her location through the trees. It scares me to think that after speaking with my wife I was going to move off in the opposite direction of where the woman became trapped.

Edwardian Style

Edwardian Style

I’m glad it wasn’t me who got stuck. I’m glad I was able to help, and I trust she’s doing well. Things like this can happen so easily in the sticks, even when you’re really not that far away from civilization.

Only one month later, six boys slipped down the ice-coated stairs of the Webster’s Falls Conservation Area between Dundas and Flamborough and became trapped. They were, it seems, actually using the designated paths; trails that I’ve even used a few times in better season’s. It took thirty-five firefighters, police and paramedics to rescue them. So again, if you’re in the area do be careful!

This is where I bring up the Nanfan Treaty again.

The time of Captain Thomas Coote has long passed. Hunting is generally not permitted in the humanly populated valley but periodically the HCA does close the western portion of the DVCA so that Iroquios-speaking Haudenosaunee tribal people can hunt deer from mid-November to late-December. Mainly, the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy hunt in these lands as an exercise of their exclusive rights under the 1701 Treaty of Albany that continues to be honoured by the Canadian government.

At an average population of 0.12 deer per hectare in Southern Ontario, the counts of 0.35 per hectare of the DVCA and 1.21 per hectare of Iroquoia Heights Conservation Area (a 120 hectare [297 acre] zone south of Dundas and on the escarpment near Ancaster) signify an overpopulation to the HCA. This provides the HCA a secondary environmental justification to permit the traditional deer kill.

Before September, the aboriginal hunters and the HCA meet to discuss whether and where a traditional hunt would take place. This is not an annual tradition; Six Nations members can choose to not hunt in a given year or observe their treaty rights in other parts of the vast hunting grounds north of the US/Canadian border. Protocols are established between the hunters and the HCA on how many deer can be killed, and other considerations of conservation and public safety. Hunting within 150 metres (500 feet) of a residence is prohibited. Crossbows are mainly used but hunters must notify the HCA before any switching to shotguns or rifles occurs. When notified about the pending use of firearms, the HCA subsequently advises the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). The hunters can be counted on to notify the police or the MNR if they see anyone who is not part of their group killing deer. The HCA and Haudenosaunee representatives meet within 60 days after the end of the hunt to review any issues.

Hamilton has been trying to make itself better known for its more than 100 beautiful waterfalls that are located in the eastern, Ancaster, Dundas and Waterdown communities. They really are worth seeing in person. I’ve photographed a number of them but everyone should do some research before they go looking for them. At least a few are on private property, and while most are fairly easy to get to, some require good stamina to reach. Hiking boots are definitely recommended. Sites like these are found in the Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area and all along the Bruce Trail.

This is a beautiful place. Winter is my least favourite season but the outskirts of Dundas can become a picture postcard after a heavy snowfall. In spring and summer, the latter being my favourite time of the year, the brown and grey woody scenery explodes with varying shades of green. The smell of healthy vegetation hangs the air. Autumn is spectacular around here as the leaves really begin to change colour, and descend from branches during the first week of October. By the second week, pathways are brightly mottled in hues of red, yellow, gold and a little green.

At a height of 200 meters (656 feet), Dundas Peak is a well known vantage point on the escarpment from which to view virtually the entire valley under a wide open sky, all the way out to downtown Hamilton in the distant east. The Bruce Trail also crosses Sydenham Road to another popular vantage point used to see the city.

Although not associated with any trail, there is another scenic viewing location near the crest of the Dundas Hill of Regional Road 8 that also shows off the valley, downtown, the harbour, Skyway Bridge and much of the Niagara Escarpment.

Apart from taking in the sights, have you ever gone out into the woods and just stopped to listen to the sounds there? Doing this on the Bruce Trail is a sensational experience.

Walking the Bruce today, I think I can sense the ghosts of 1700’s and 1800’s pioneers. They marvel at the beauty of the land, as they knew it, but recoil at the difficulty they faced in trying to tame it. I feel their gazes weighing heavily upon me as they concede to the fact that I am of a generation that gets to easily explore and exploit what they struggled so hard to adapt to.

The escarpment to the northwest, west and southwest helps to keep the valley’s population in check at 24,700 inhabitants. Most of these areas above the escarpment are associated with the rural community of Flamborough.

Economic growth has been restricted and sprawl has been prevented largely due to the physical possession of so much land by the Hamilton Conservation Authority and RBG.

Main & King in Dundas

Main & King in Dundas

Just Who Are the Dundasians?

I don’t ever hear it really vocalized, and seldom see it documented but I can’t ignore the strong perception I have that lifelong residents are steadfastly clinging to a sense of independence from “megacity” Hamilton. There even continues to be a sign by the side of Osler Drive that says “Welcome to Dundas; A Valley Community Since 1787”, denoting the first Americans to settle into the area. Even official studies like the 2007 Dundas Transportation Master Plan (HTMP) from Hamilton City Hall still refer to the area as a “town”.

To help grasp the social characteristics of Hamilton’s various communities, the Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) has developed a series of statistical Community Profiles. They published their study of Dundas back in 2008. The profile is mainly based on 2006 Census of Canada (Statistics Canada) data while applying some reference information from the 1996 and 2001 Censuses. Additional data has been provided by the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton.

There is a fairly common presumption that Dundas is a community populated mostly by grey-haired 65 and older senior citizens. That perception is probably due to so many of Dundas’ seniors being so visibly mobile and independent. You do see many of them coming and going from place-to-place; most are not cooped up indoors sitting in rocking chairs or lying down in orthopedic beds breathing oxygen from tanks through vinyl tubes. They are active.

The SPRC’s study indicates that Dundas is not populated mainly by seniors but it does have the highest concentration of seniors in the entire city. They make up 19% of the valley’s population while Dundas overall is 5 per cent of the City of Hamilton. The majority of Dundas’ residents are below age 65, with children comprising 18% of all Dundasians. With little indication that residents are leaving the valley, the population is certainly aging out and increasing the amount of seniors living there.

Single mothers make up 11% of the local population. This is the second largest group of single mums after the 18% of downtown Hamilton. Yes, many conclusions can be made about these figures.

For Granted

For Granted

Dundas is by far a predominantly Caucasian community. Long gone are the Iroquois Indians that inhabited the area before the whites came. Only 6% of Dundas is comprised of visible minorities with the Chinese (30%) and Southeast Asians (25%) being the largest of such groups. 13% are black, 9% are Arabic, 7% are Korean and 16% make up various other ethnicities. These are the demographics noted by the SPRC in 2008.

Statistically, Dundas has become one of the wealthiest communities in Hamilton. There are many residents who work in the area but, not surprisingly, most seem to work either in other parts of Hamilton or commute to other municipalities for their livelihood.

As poverty is a lingering concern for all of Hamilton, poverty and other social issues do touch this community.

Numbers, like those from the SPRC, are important but they really don’t speak to how the people actually engage life.

Dancing Goddess of the Air

Dancing Goddess of the Air

I did briefly call the name of the Dundas Valley Historical Society. They promote awareness of local history, and the Dundas Museum & Archives records the lives of people and events that give this community its individuality.

Dundas International Buskerfest is a topnotch annual tradition. Every June since 1998, the Downtown Dundas Business Improvement Area (BIA) presents this festival right on King Street; the main drag through the area. Traffic is re-routed for this Friday to Sunday spectacle of comedians, jugglers, tumblers, acrobats and other performance artists from around the planet.

Following Buskerfest is the Dundas Cactus Festival. It began in 1976 to celebrate the beginning of summer; like Buskerfest, and is named in honour of Barend (Ben) Veldhuis, a Dutch immigrant who ran a large greenhouse specializing in cacti, a plant very much associated with summertime. Barend’s greenhouse was the reason why Dundas was nicknamed “the cactus capital of the universe”.

In 1979, the festival was moved to be held on the third weekend of August with local downtown merchants putting on sidewalk sales in conjunction. Every August, it begins on a Wednesday with King Street being blocked off from York Road to Market Street. A parade takes place on Thursday evening, and then a midway, live musicians, buskers (sometimes hanging around since Buskerfest), arts and crafts, games, vendors and charity gambling carries on from Friday to Sunday.



Dundas Driving Park is a sports park and community hub that’s been around for longer than I can remember. I can remember going there as a kid for hot and humid summer picnics that was put on by People’s Church back in the ‘70s.

Located at 71 Cross Avenue between Park St. East and Sydenham Rd. to the north, the site covers 10.6 hectares (26.5 acres). The park today contains a residential street, Parkview, that contains single family residences and Helen Street that connects the adjacent neighborhood of more single family residences and high-rise apartments.

There are 4 ball fields, a Bandshell, children’s play equipment, a wading pool, sheltered picnic areas with kitchenettes, privately operated lawn bowling and tennis clubs, washroom facilities and a small concession building for seasonal use.

Park facilities are programmed through Hamilton’s Culture and Recreation Department. The interior ring road provides access to 3 residences, a loading zone for school buses servicing the adjacent Parkside high school and functions as perimeter car parking for park users.

In 2005, the Culture and Recreation Department was granted approval to partner with the Dundas Sunrise Rotary Club to develop an outdoor skating rink with artificial ice. In the summer, the rink is used by rollerbladers and skateboarders.

The Rotary Club also holds annual Victoria Day Pyrotechnic Celebrations in the park in late May.



Being an artist, there is no possible way I could not say at least two words about Dundas’ longstanding and thriving art scene. As I’ve mentioned at the beginning, I sold art out of a now defunct private gallery on King Street but even then I was never part of the real artist subculture of the area. Most of Dundas’ artists seem to be potters and makers of ceramic sculptures but there are some 2D visual artists, like me, for certain.

The Carnegie Gallerie is the longest operating and most successful fine art gallery in Dundas. I’ll even say it’s the toughest and most endurable.

Old Dundas’ Public Library first opened at 10 King Street West on December 8, 1910. The edifice functioned as the library until 1970, and when the library moved out in the mid-’70s, Dundas Town Council debated having the building demolished.

A group calling itself the Dundas Craft Carnival obtained permission to establish a small gallery space on the main floor. Using a small loan and borrowing everything else, they fixed up the place.

The Craft Carnival transformed into the Dundas Art and Craft Association in 1980, leased the property and began running the place as the Carnegie Gallery by the following year by featuring and selling local art.

When seeking to renew its lease in 2005, the gallery was advised that Hamilton City Council had then become the ones contemplating its destruction.

Did I mention that Dundasians are independent-minded, strong willed, proud of their heritage, culture and traditions and know when they have a good thing going? There was a groundswell of support for their gallery, and thousands of citizen signatures on a petition to save the Carnegie did just that.

The Carnegie recognizes that it needs financial and volunteer support from the surrounding community, and that relationship has enabled gallery administration to complete its renovations of the former Public Library right up until 2013.

Unfortunately for me, some of my specialties like Sci-Fi, fantasy and aviation art and even street photography are not likely to be commercially viable at the Carnegie but I wish them more prosperity and greater longevity in a world that still has difficulty recognizing the importance of art in our lives.

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Marion Farnan and Emily Dutton are women who did recognize the necessity for professional-level art instruction in and around this part of Lake Ontario, known as the Golden Horseshoe. They founded the Dundas Valley School of Art (DVSA) in 1964. After becoming a not-for-profit corporation by 1967, this education centre has remained another important entity in the area’s art scene.

Originally housed in a rented facility on Melville Street, the school outgrew that location prompting its board to purchase a larger building on Ogilvie Street, in 1970. This replacement location was built in 1836, and is perhaps an indication of how prosperous the village of Dundas had been up until just four years prior. It was the former Wesleyan Ladies’ College, and then the Canada Screw Works. Later it was occupied by Stelco, the steel manufacturing company that not only played an important role in building Hamilton but also helped Canada grow into the nation it is today.

Slightly off topic, its old places with this kind of history that really interest me. I look for opportunities to photograph inside them, especially when they’re unused or even abandoned and decaying, but it’s so hard to get permission to get access.

The Ogilvie site continued on as an aircraft engine plant, and a WWII munitions factory before finally becoming the lasting home of the DVSA.

In 1998, the DVSA started a full-time diploma programme with McMaster University.




The Hamilton Police Service — formerly the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, regards the city as three patrol divisions. Dundas is located within Division 3, an expansive territory that covers nearly all rural lands of the city with the exception of the western border below the escarpment which is covered by Division 2. Division 3 encompasses the peripheral communities of Flamborough, Dundas, Ancaster, Binbrook and Glanbrook. Hamilton Mountain (the southwestern suburbs above the escarpment) is also included. The HPS further breaks Division 3 down into four sectors. Dundas occupies the eastern half of Sector 1 (Flamborough/Dundas). The boundaries of this sector are south of city limits – Gore Road and the Puslinch Townline, east of city limits – Highway 403 and Wilson Street, and west of city limits – the Milburough Townline north of Governor’s Rd.

Anyone wanting to live in a low crime area should think of moving to Dundas. It’s safe. It is tremendously difficult to find a single publicly reported crime occurring anywhere in Dundas.

Bird Village

Bird Village

I do recall that a bank robbery was foiled by a citizen in late August of 2008. A woman entered a TD Canada Trust bank in Dundas University Plaza, slammed a baseball bat on the counter and proceeded to make an unauthorized cash withdrawal. As trained, the teller complied and the female suspect began to flee. As the robber was leaving, another woman – a customer, slid a chair at the thief, knocking her off balance, and causing the suspect to drop the bat and money. The suspect then pulled out a knife and continued to make her escape. The same eyewitness customer immediately grabbed the bat and gave chase. The customer disarmed and apprehended the suspect, and brought her back to the bank to await the arrival of the police.

The suspect did sustain a minor injury (a gash to the forehead) as a result of the citizen’s arrest. She was taken to hospital for treatment then released back into police custody.

I hope the bank and city rewarded the brave woman who saved the day (yes, crooks and their lawyers who’ll use any angle to get them off, would argue this saying that institutions will be committing negligence and risking lawsuits by encouraging people to put themselves in physical danger and committing vigilantism, blah . . . blah . . . blah)!

Occurrences like this are rare for Dundas. This area alone must be a hugely contributive reason why Hamilton, as a whole, has very low crime statistics for a major Canadian city.

Everybody knows; however, that every now and then small quiet communities end up in the headlines with startling events that shake them to their knees. It’s not that anyone is looking forward to such a letdown for Dundas but the day will unfortunately come in which the shoe will drop.

Swept Away

Swept Away

Looking Down the Road

I think that City Hall and the DCC will continue to plan some additional cultural benefits for this community. For the most part; however, I see Dundas staying pretty much as it has been since the late 80’s.

At the beginning of this millennium there was news that the RGB, with much of its employees being organized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5167, was threatening to close due to inadequate finances to control its operating costs. The RBG has long hosted festivals and other exhibits, and some areas like their magnificent Arboretum require a fee for admission. From casual conversations I find; however, that there is a portion of local and out of town visitors who come away from the events feeling that they aren’t worth the prices they’ve had to pay, even though they do like the gardens. Even the holding of a wedding or having just your wedding photos taken at the RBG is commonly regarded as priced exorbitantly. If it hasn’t got that contemporary pop for what’s got to be paid, people lose interest real fast and are unlikely to be repeat customers.

There was a short-lived public fear that if the RBG closed, and couldn’t sell off its lands to private organizations that would maintain the gardens, then the City of Hamilton would wind up repossessing the grounds. There was a little concern that without transferring control to the HCA, City Council may develop the land to increase urban sprawl as was in fact the case for the Red Hill Expressway in the eastern side of the city, and are the plans for the southern rural areas around the local airport; I want to say here that I’ve found no evidence to either support or refute that perception.

It’s not easy being green. In recent years, the RBG has been fortunate to have received millions of dollars from the federal and provincial governments for grounds renewal but this has been met with some criticism. As Hamilton overall has had a long-held poverty crisis, some citizens have voiced their opinions that tax dollars could have been better spent on feeding people and/or lasting job creation.

The RBG’s 2012 Budget Executive Summary, drafted by January 26 of that year, states that the RBG “is a provincial transfer agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture, and also receives operational grants from both the Regional Municipality of Halton and the City of Hamilton. It is through their support that the original vision will continue for the enjoyment of future generations.” Attendance reductions and other significant challenges were; nevertheless, noticed with even the newest of exhibits and pavilions, and an estimated deficit that administration had to concentrate on reducing.

The RBG maintains a program to solicit private donations, and budget reports seem to suggest that there are some very private backers that have helped RBG administration confront its financial difficulties. A couple of the RBG’s expressed future goals in their multi-year business plans are to aggressively go after “core federal funding” and increase provincial government support.

I personally think that an end to the RBG would be a tremendous loss for Southern Ontario.

How far into the future should I speculate, and on what if possible?

I don’t want to make this photo essay an environmental article but here are some interesting predictions that I found. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2012 was a little over 16°C (61°F). Environmental experts and theorists predict that by 2050, the mean temperature of the planet will be warmer by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius if carbon dioxide levels rise to 600ppm. Small alpine glaciers around the world will shrink by 30 to 70 per cent. Austrian scientist Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck has suggested that this is a conservative amount. He and some other experts are predicting global temperature increases by as much as 6 degrees sooner, resulting in a total loss of small alpine glaciers by 2037.

By 2060, possible adaptive strategies used within the North American Great Lakes forestry and land management regions, like Ontario, may include monitoring the health and productivity of forests as climate and other environmental parameters change; using land use planning and other tools (e.g. sprawl taxes) to minimize land use conflicts; facilitating the migration of plant species as the most hospitable climate conditions shift north; and planting tree species that are better suited to a changed climate.

Here’s a sci-fi concept for that time; some people may start settling into simulated biosphere and subterranean communities between +30° and +50° north latitudes. Hamilton is at +43° north. Given Hamilton’s Karst topography on the Great Canadian Shield, I imagine that the engineering required to pull that off around here would have to be substantial and tremendously costly. In my head, I’m picturing the Dundas landscape with a series of several colossal sunshields arching over the valley; the escarpment is used to help shade the community from the intense evening UV rays of the westward sun.

Circa 2085, we could be seeing significant increases in the number of days above 32°C (90°F) in the Great Lakes region (officially in Canada, a community within a province experiences a heat wave when the local temperature is 32°C or more for three days or more). Thus a major quality of life issue in the region will be human health and well-being. People who lack protection from high temperature extremes may suffer from heat stress, dehydration, respiratory distress and occasionally heat stroke or cardiac malfunction.

On the other hand, winters will be warmer, decreasing illness and mortality related to extreme cold. Additionally, inter-annual variability may decrease. For example, cool summers may not occur as frequently as they do now around the Great Lakes. Other impacts for short term extreme weather events such as floods, tornadoes and blizzards may also increase in the region, particularly heavy precipitation events.

Improved weather forecasting, information distribution, special assistance, and improving economic well-being would help at-risk populations to better cope with high temperature extremes. Better insulation of homes against heat and cold, and other construction improvements, as well as preventing construction too close to Great Lakes shores will help to reduce some of the weather-related risks, especially those related to extreme heat, floods, and storms. Efforts to reduce air pollution at the source and timely health advisories for susceptible people, such as the elderly, help reduce the impacts of air pollutants on health.

Primary production in the Great Lakes would decline as previously projected. Stocking strategies to rebuild stocks of native species that have survived in the lakes through centuries of post-glacial change would have to be implemented. Continued appropriate public education programs to explain these changes would assist such efforts.

In consideration of those conservative global increases of 1.5 to 4.5°C, add an extra ten years to reach 2095 when the average temperatures in just the Upper Great Lakes region is expected to have increased by 2 to 4°C (36 to 39°F) since early 21st century. Precipitation is expected to have increased by 25% by then. Mostly as rain I would expect. Hamilton currently receives 893mm (35in) of precipitation annually.

The waters of the Great Lakes will be warmer by the end of the 21st century. In addition, models suggest that lengthening warm seasons will reduce the seasonal mixing that replenishes critical oxygen to biologically productive lake zones, possibly shrinking lake biomass productivity by around 20%. This will include losses of zooplankton and phytoplankton that form the very base of aquatic food chains, and are critical to the survival of the many species of fish that live in the Great Lakes.

Changes in precipitation patterns may alter seasonal flow and volume patterns in streams and rivers feeding the Great Lakes. Studies in the US indicate that cold water stream habitats could be significantly altered by a warming climate, threatening cold-water species such as walleye and trout.

Climate change poses a significant threat to the remaining wetlands in the Great Lakes region. These delicate ecosystems, like Cootes Paradise, are important to declining migratory bird populations. Wetlands provide food, breeding grounds, and resting stops for birds along their major migration routes.

Everyone has heard of the continental costal flooding that is expected to have occurred by this time but the Great Lakes is unlikely to be subject to this due to the fact the they are more like inland seas at higher altitudes than the world’s oceans. After the glaciers in the north have melted away, it’s conceivable that the Great Lakes could actually begin to drain out through the St. Lawrence River, and experience accelerated evaporation. At least 32 of the 36 species of fish in the Great Lakes are dependent on coastal wetlands for successful reproduction. Despite significant increase in precipitation, Great Lakes water levels are theorized to fall by .46 to 2.4 metres (1.5 to 8 feet) by 2100 because of the higher temperatures. This poses serious implications for ecosystems and the economy. These declines in water levels will reduce fish access to the emergent vegetation of coastal marshes, which provide breeding habitat, shelter for young fish, and plenty of food in the form of vegetation and invertebrates. Cootes Paradise may no longer be wetlands in one hundred years time.

Too much doom and gloom? Sorry. Just keep in mind that some eviro-gurus believe that people all around the planet still have an opportunity to turn things around. Back up to 1992 when Hamilton City Council adopted it’s Vision 2020.

Vision 2020 is a plan that that is meant to guide citizens, City Council, businesses and organizations to ensure a strong, healthy and sustainable city through four main considerations:

• “Fulfillment of human needs for peace, clean air and water, food, shelter, education, arts, culture, and useful and satisfying employment;”

• “Maintenance of ecological integrity through careful stewardship, rehabilitation, reduction in wastes and protection of diverse and important natural species and systems;”

• “Provision for self-determination through public involvement in the definition and development of local solutions to environmental and development problems;” and

• “Achievement of equity with the fairest possible sharing of limited resources among contemporaries and between our generation and that of our descendants.”

All initiatives, at least by the city, are supposed to be launched with the focused intent to achieve all of these principles by the year 2020. Since the adoption of this plan, the vision has been renewed every five years.

Captain Coote’s Paradise is slowly modernizing as new generations of residents and technologies come along, and as new economic and environmental necessities and politics demand change. Dundas is otherwise not likely to spread beyond its current physical boundaries.

So there it is. I wanted to know about Dundas, did a little wandering around and a little digging and I learned about all of this and more. I’m still learning. Through flâneurism and photography, I aim to continue my exploration of Dundas for as long as I can. I want to bare witness to a promising future for this historical valley community.

5 thoughts on “Dundas

    • It it a lot to take in all at once. There is so much that I have discovered and likely more yet. I even pulled two of the pictures on account of so many used.

      I do hope that you keep coming back to read the rest.

  1. Confession – I did not read it all (not for the lack of interest). There are quite a few photos that catch my eye -the Christ for example. Why is the bride sweeping the street?

  2. Photo essays can sometimes be a lot to take in all at once, perhaps especially mine. I welcome all to go away and return as much as they want in order to read one. I don’t mind at all.

    I’ve seen so many crucifixes that have been worth passing by but this one was special to me. I saw it from this Catholic cemetery entrance on East Street South in this light, and although I fully intended to not go in there I could not resist making my way up to this cross.

    The spikes through Christ’s palms and the soldier’s bleeding spear piercing just below the right breast were so pronounced in the high contrast sunlight. There’s was so much pain conveyed by that, and so much sorrow expressed by the way the Messiah is depicted with his thorny crowned head tilted a little forward and to the side; not yet dead but certainly dying in mortal agony. I just had to shoot it.

    The sweepers were actually dancers in an annual Dundas Cactus Festival parade.

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