Description of Historic Place
The four-hectare property at 88 Fennell Avenue West, known as Auchmar, is situated on West 5th Street at Fennell Avenue in the City of Hamilton. The two-storey, stuccoed brick manor house was designed in the Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1855.
The exterior and interior portions of the 'Manor House' as well as exteriors of a carriage house and other historic structures and improvements are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Hamilton under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law No. 2000-37). The property is owned by the City of Hamilton.
Located at the north-east corner of Fennel Avenue and West 5th Street, the four-hectare walled property exemplifies the Picturesque movement of design with the architecture and landscape forming a coherent whole. The property's placement atop the escarpment, the informal arrangement of plantings, and vestiges of a long, tree lined driveway contribute to this Picturesque character. Contributing to the context of the property are limestone structures and improvements such as a carriage house, a dovecote with lancet windows, and a high, buttressed wall enclosing parts of the property and garden. Originally the property was part of Buchanan's larger 35-hectare estate, known as Claremont Park, and was accessed off Claremont Avenue at the brow of the escarpment, marked by an extant gatehouse.
Auchmar was the estate of Isaac Buchanan (1810-1883), a wealthy, Scottish born merchant, civic leader and leading political figure in Canada West. Buchanan immigrated to Montreal in 1830 as a partner in the Glasgow based, dry goods firm of William Guild Jr. and Co. By 1832 he had become the head of the firm's Toronto operations, developing it into the largest wholesaler in the city. Buchanan gained his greatest corporate prominence however, as a partner in Buchanan, Harris and Co., a Hamilton based wholesale company formed in 1840 that became one of the largest and most profitable of its type in Upper and Lower Canada. In addition to Buchanan's business interests, he was deeply involved in provincial politics, serving from 1841-43 as the Toronto representative in the first Legislative Assembly of the newly formed Province of Canada.
After permanently moving to Hamilton in 1851, Buchanan served in the Assembly as a representative for Hamilton from 1857-1865. In 1864 Buchanan became aligned with the Conservative government and served as the President of the Executive Council in the short-lived Macdonald-Tache administration. Additionally, Buchanan was instrumental in forming the Hamilton Board of Trade (1845), the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (1862), and was a strong lifelong patron to a multitude of Presbyterian causes. As a promoter of Hamilton's commercial future, Buchanan was instrumental in bringing the Great Western Railway to Hamilton in 1854. Buchanan is also remembered as an abolitionist, offering his estate to be used for Black Canadian's Emancipation Day celebrations as early as 1859. During World War II Auchmar served as a convalescent home for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The property was named by Buchanan after the family estate in Scotland, bordering Loch Lomond.
Auchmar is one of Hamilton's most impressive 19th century estates and it exemplifies Gothic Revival style architecture. The focal point of the property is the 'Manor House', a long, 'H' shaped villa completed in 1855. Like the home of a Scottish laird, which Buchanan may have hoped to emulate, the house features a rough-cast stucco finish, clustered chimneys, and various Gothic details such as pointed arch windows and label mouldings. Originally, long verandas lined the central portion of the house integrating the outdoors with the residence and aligning the design with the Picturesque movement. The interior is similarly styled in the Gothic taste with the ballroom displaying a highly decorative, plaster, strap work ceiling and corridors featuring vaulted ceilings with plaster ribbing. Interior woodwork repeats the Gothic motif with slender shafts and foliated plaster capitals lining the corridor walls and the pointed arch incorporated into doorway frames and door panels. The unique plan of the house features a narrow, 24-metre central corridor with stair halls at each end. A furnace, indoor lavatory and basement kitchen were also included in the original design, making the house distinctly modern for its amenities.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value include it's:
- elevated placement upon the plateau ('The Mountain') overlooking the City of Hamilton
- high, random-coursed limestone wall with buttresses and pointed arched openings encircling the property and garden
- entrance off Fennel Avenue with limestone gateposts and curved walls
- vestiges of the terraced landscaping on the north side of the manor house
- dovecote of limestone construction with lancet windows, pyramidal roof, and central, peaked gables
- 1 ½ -storey, limestone construction carriage house with cross gable roof
- vestiges of a pine tree-lined driveway
- vestiges of quince and apple orchards
- informal, picturesque arrangement of mature plantings.
- association with Isaac Buchanan, a leading Canadian merchant, political figure, and civic leader
- name, 'Auchmar' which links it to the ancestral, Scottish estate of the Buchanan family
- association with Hamilton's early African-Canadian community and their 'Emancipation Day' celebrations
- role as a World War II convalescence home for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
- centralized, two-storey, 'H' shaped plan with irregularities and rectangular eastern extension
- steeply pitched, complex roofline of cross gables and parallel gables incorporating gable roof dormers; flat roof (extension)
- numerous chimneys with clustered stacks and clay chimney pots
- decorated eaves with scroll cut brackets, drop finials, and elaborate bargeboards incorporating flowing tracery and cusp motifs
- masonry construction with stucco-clad finish and finely pointed stone window sills with margins
- square headed windows with double-hung, 6/6, wooden sashes and subtle flowing tracery along the top rail
- square headed windows with double-hung, 1/1, wooden sashes
- pointed windows with tracery filled transom lights
- bay windows with crenellated tops and multi-pane casement sashes
- multi-pane French windows
- label moulding over windows and doors
- main entrance with multi-pane sidelights; divided transom lights with quatrefoil tracery; a wooden door containing trefoil arch and quatrefoil motifs detailed panels; margined, stone steps with sides
- interior floor plan centred upon a long, narrow corridor with stair halls at each end
- two 'dog-leg' staircases comprised of oak balustrades with pointed arch cut-outs and tracery motif stair ends
- plastered ceilings, cornices and walls throughout
- vaulted hall and corridor ceilings
- ornamental plasterwork such as thick ribbing with bosses in the halls and corridors; the ribbed, strap work, plaster ballroom ceiling and hollow vignette frieze; foliated, shaft capitals (corridors); various ceiling medallions
- pine detailing such as the slender, engaged shafts lining the corridors, broad baseboards, doors, door and window casings and interior shutters
- repeated pointed arch motif as found in the doors panels, door case panels, shutter panels and doorway openings
- exposed second storey wood beams with beaded edges
- service rooms such as pantry and kitchen with tongue-and-groove wainscoting, glass-fronted cabinetry, washtubs
- bathroom finishes and fixtures such as glazed, porcelain wall tiles, porcelain tile flooring, claw-foot tubs, and marble vanities on nickel plated legs
- flagstone flooring in the basement rooms and basement corridor
- brick, wine cellar shelving in the basement
- decorative iron light fixtures.