Hamilton is a deep-sea port city of 520,000 at the west end of Lake Ontario, midway between Toronto and Buffalo. It lies at the geographic center of a densely populated and industrial region known as the Golden Horseshoe. Home to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, it boasts a growing arts and culture community of local art galleries and recording studios. It has been the site of numerous independent film productions.
George Hamilton, a settler and local politician, established the town site in 1815. In 1877, the first telephone service and exchange in Canada began operating here. After a long history as a manufacturing hub, in the 1960’s the economy increased emphasis on the services sector, such as transportation, education, and health care. A 2001 consolidation created a single-tier municipal government, ending the subsidization of its suburbs by incorporating 100 old neighborhoods and surrounding communities.
Hamilton’s climate is humid-continental, characterized by changeable weather patterns. However, its winter weather is moderate compared with most of Canada. Its major physical features include a natural harbor with a large sandbar the native Neutral Indians called Macassa, meaning “beautiful waters.” The Niagara Escarpment runs throughout the middle of the city across its entire breadth, bisecting it into “upper” and “lower” parts. More than 100 waterfalls and cascades descend on or near the Bruce Trail hiking path that winds through these bluffs. The book Green City: People, Nature, & Urban Places showcases the municipality as one of eleven examples of a former industrial powerhouse co-creating with nature.
The place has a large population of people with Italian, English, Scottish, German, and Irish ancestry. Nearly one in five report a Scottish background. Twenty percent of the local population was not born in Canada. Hamilton also has a large French community, to whom the province offers services in its language. In 2014, the city’s council voted to declare Hamilton a sanctuary city, providing municipal services to undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. One geodemographic marketing firm foresees a future in which younger upscale Hamiltonians who are tech-savvy and university-educated choose to live downtown rather than just visiting intermittently.
The most important economic activity in Ontario is manufacturing. With sixty percent of Canada’s steel being produced in Hamilton, the city became known as the Steel Capital of Canada. U.S. Steel has recently closed down its local operations, but Dofasco remains one of North America’s most profitable and sustainable steel companies.
Hamilton is home to several post-secondary institutions. McMasters University has around 30,000 enrolled students. Mohawk College teaches applied arts and technology to 10,000 and 40,000 part-time pupils. Brick University maintains a satellite teacher education campus in town. The Dundas Valley School of Art has an all-ages student body close to 4000, with a faculty and staff of highly regarded regional artists. The Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts is home to talented young actors, dancers, musicians, singers, and visual artists.
Two major art museums reside here, as do two think tanks. Hamilton has an active theater scene, featuring the professional Theatre Aquarius and two amateur companies. Many smaller troupes have also appeared in the past decade. Several new and established arts centers and galleries, plus the growth in the downtown condo market, have spurred creative activities in the core.
Canadian Football League and Major League Lacrosse professional franchises head a list of local hockey, soccer, rugby, and baseball teams. There are two auto racetracks and a half-mile harness racecourse. With Toronto Hamilton co-hosted the 2015 Pan Am Games. It plans to continue its fight for a National Hockey League berth.
Since 1957, Hamilton has partnered with seven Sister Cities, including in the United States Flint, Pittsburgh, and Sarasota, along with towns in Italy, India, Japan, and China.