Hamilton has its quirks, that’s for sure, and it may have a reputation for being a little gritty beyond its borders.
Those of us who call this city home, though, know better. In recent years, there’s been a revitalization of several neighbourhoods but there still remain several places in our community that can’t brush off that unsavoury reputation but really, aren’t all that bad.
Here are 5 places in Hamilton that have a bad reputation but really shouldn’t.
5. West Hamilton
I think many Hamiltonians would be surprised to see this neighbourhood on the list because Westdale is typically considered one of the more desirable areas of Hamilton with its historic homes, proximity to higher centres of learning and of course Westdale Village. But in recent years, rowdy university parties have garnered a lot of media attention and has earned the area a rather unfavourable reputation for this reason. Even a couple of weeks ago, ‘Fake Homecoming’ made headlines as a street in Westdale closed down to make way for thousands of partygoers. The event was peaceful, though costly in terms of enforcement, and students cleaned up after themselves. All in all, Westdale is lovely destination in this city. There are world-class restaurants and pubs, bakeries and book stores. Even if the student body proves troublesome at times, it does little to take away from the beauty of this mature and well-kept neighbourhood situated around one of Canada’s leading universities.
4. East End
I think it hurts my heart to put this on the list but after polling some fellow Hamiltonians about neighbourhood reputations, the East End came up a couple of times. This is my stomping grounds. I grew up here on the same street my father did and his mother before him. I don’t find this neighbourhood undesirable in the least but I guess I can see why others would. This is typically a working-class area with neat, well-kept homes and that hasn’t changed much over the years. The housing here is more affordable than other Hamilton neighbourhoods and with the recent revitalization of Ottawa Street, it’s become a retail and dining destination once again. Personally, this is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city for obvious reasons, but beyond my personal preference, I think the East End embodies that salt-of-the-earth, hard-working reputation that Hamilton is known for.
3. Hess Village
Back in the day, when I was carefree and somewhat cool, Hess was the place be but over the years, the area has earned a reputation as being a destination for rowdy, drunk youngsters who brawl and create mayhem (I’m exaggerating, of course, but it has gotten a little rowdy in recent years). Do I think that’s a reason to not go there? Absolutely not. There are so many great places to eat and drink and be merry on this street that you would be silly to pass up to the opportunity to visit. The Gown and Gavel, for instance, has been a stalwart over the years and their longevity speaks to the quality of the service, food and drinks available there. There’s also Sizzle, Che, Smoke’s Poutinerie and The Electric Diner. Papagayo is just down the street as well and a host of bars and nightclubs for those of you who don’t go to bed before 9 p.m. There’s also been a stepped-up police presence in the area, especially on horseback, which has kept things a little calmer in the area in recent years.
2. North End
To outsiders, the North End can appear rather rough around the edges but it’s not much different than, say, the East End in that it’s another working-class neighbourhood, albeit more affordable. The homes here, again, show pride of ownership and there are a number of thriving businesses in the area that are proud to call North Hamilton home. I think the neighbourhood’s proximity to industry is what gives many people pause, but I look at it as the lifeblood of the city: without it, I’m not sure Hamilton would’ve come this far.
1. Barton Street
This street in Hamilton has long been deemed undesirable but recent years have seen pockets of the area opening up to new businesses and breathing new life into areas that haven’t seen much beyond disrepair and despair over the last few decades. There are plenty of historic homes and buildings in the area and a number of businesses popping up that are looking to preserve and enhance the story of the neighbourhood (The Playhouse Theatre comes to mind). There are, to be sure, many empty storefronts, run-down buildings and some of Hamilton’s most vulnerable populations live and work on these streets, but these shouldn’t be reasons to avoid the area. 541 Eatery and Exchange is an example of a space that is open to all walks of life and it provides an important social outreach for the immediate community and is a destination for those who live further out to come and enjoy this historic neighbourhood and amazing food and support the community in a really unique way. There are long-time residents like Duarte’s, The Trocadero Tavern, Frank’s Sicilia Bakery and many others who have been holding down things in the neighbourhood for decades. Today, they’re joined by newcomers like The Heather, Motel Restaurant, Emerald Coffee Co., Mosaic and others, who are working to restore Barton’s historic reputation as a Hamilton destination.