While many in the neighbourhood have been aware of the Westinghouse landmark for years, in 2016 our team’s direct involvement began when we started to peel back the layers of history to discover much of the original and storied Westinghouse HQ. The striking building was constructed in 1917 by the Canadian arm of Westinghouse Company and is located at Sanford Avenue in Hamilton.
The office structure was designed by architects Prack and Perrine, predecessors to Prack and Prack, who designed notable Hamilton buildings including the Pigott Building and Lister Block.
Local firm, mcCallumSather, are the architects, mechanical engineers, interior designers and also specialize in the heritage process on the project.From the initial entry into the derelict building to the grand opening in the New Year, they are helping to bring life back to this iconic Hamilton landmark.
Christina Karney, Senior Architect, at mcCallumSather explains, “Before we began our investigation of the property, we uncovered original drawings that featured the unique details within the space but had no idea if they would be there when we first entered the building. With the property being derelict for decades, windows were boarded up and there was no way of knowing what treasures still remained as records of recent renovations had not been kept.”
Extensive demolition took place removing interior finishes to strip back to the original features. Originally the building was constructed as a 5 storey brick building while 6th and 7th storeys were added in 1928.
The building was very well recorded during construction, which is another very unique feature of this project. There are photos of the project at each stage of construction as well as the original lobby space, a rarity for buildings of this age.
Through a sensitive interior demolition process, mcCallumSather were able to uncover historic materials and features, including original marble, Terrazzo and mosaic tile flooring, decorative plaster ceilings and a hidden theatre.
Lead architect, Drew Hauser, shares his perspective, “One of the biggest surprises of the project was the theatre auditorium that we uncovered at the west end of the building. You wouldn’t have believed what this particular space looked like when we first started. A large portion of the intricate detail around the perimeter was covered up and the substantial room was divided into 6 separate rooms. Three layers of ceiling covered the elaborate plasterwork, which thankfully protected the original plaster over time. Likewise, we were unaware of the original flooring in the theater until we started peeling back the cover and discovered it was fully intact and had been protected for all these years. The design is incredible, it’s very unique and was really quite exceptional for its time.”
The exterior of the building is designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. The designation includes all the exterior elements, except for two entrance doors. The designation by-law states that it is: “Important to the preservation of the Canadian Westinghouse head office building are the original architectural feature of all four exterior facades, including the brick masonry wall. The stone trim and the wood-framed, double–hung windows, but excluding the modern entrance doors on the east and west facades.”
As noted, it was important to repair as many of the original windows as possible to comply with the Ontario Heritage Act. Due to the condition of many windows, the scale of the building and modern building codes, mcCallumSather were opted a strategy that combined repair and replacement. Repair of the original windows were focused on ground level where the detail was of the highest quality and because it is in a space with the most public access and impact.
“The replacement windows match the original aesthetic. The original walnut windows are being restored by local firm Heritage Mill, who are also fixing up the hardware and glass throughout the main floor” said Christina Karney.
“As the designation does not include any interior elements the developers were under no obligation to complete interior heritage work. Thankfully, their passion for the project has allowed us to restore many exceptional features of the original design.
It has been a joy to work on the project. Westinghouse HQ is an excellent example of the Classical Revival style and it’s been a pleasure to see these historic items come to life as we continue to work on the project.”