One of our favourite parts of any Flea event is to learn about the history of each space we pop up in. Finding locations that celebrate our city’s rich history is our top priority and Lawson Lumber certainly fits the bill. Here are some of our favourite stories, compiled from our findings at the Local History Archives and conversations with members of the Lawson family.
The building at Gage and Dunsmure was originally known as Alliance Lumber from 1910-1946. It played an important part in Hamiltons industrial history and was a huge employer for the city. Located right on the historical TH&B railway line, all of the lumber produced and received was shipped via train. In 1946, Charles Lawson, who had been a long-time employee of Alliance Lumber, purchased the company from its American owners and it became Hamilton-owned.
Now that it was officially in the Lawson family hands, many members of the family started working there. Jim Lawson was the grandson of Charles and recounted some of his memories in a phone conversation we had. He remembers working summers at the lumber yard. Jim’s strongest memory was of unloading the train carts of lumber in the summer heat. “You had to crawl into these small spaces on the train carts and find ways to jimmy out the huge pieces of wood, in boiling temperatures. I’ll never forget it!”. He also still remembers the swear words he learned to say in Italian from the community of workers at the yard.
On June 14, 1955 a large fire broke out in the lumber yard and destroyed the majority of it. Apparently Charles Lawson found out about it from a call from his friend who rang and said “by the looks of the smoke, I think your place is on fire.” Our favourite story surrounding the fire is of Carlos Vergara II, a student from South America, living in the neighbourhood. Apparently he was one of the first to discover the fire and was a true hero in the ordeal. He immediately started directing the people living in the surrounding houses to move their cars that backed onto the lumber yard and started hosing down the fire with the neighbours garden hoses.
After the fire, everything was rebuilt and you can really see the 1950s architecture in the office building.
Another one of our favourite discoveries was that of Lawson Lodge. In the 1970s, the Salvation Army started a home for troubled girls. In honour of Charles Lawson’s work with the organization, they named the home Lawson Lodge in his honour. So this family really has left a mark on many aspects of Hamiltons’ history.
The Lawson family also has a long-standing history with the Hamilton Wildcats, and later the Hamilton TiCats, which we learned about in this video:
There’s lots more we could share, but one are just a few of our favourite tidbits. Come check out the space on Saturday to learn even more!