> Auchmar : Prominence and History on the Mountain
Auchmar : Prominence and History on the Mountain
The gothic house of five gables was
built in 1854 by a man known all over the city as a great mind for
business and the future. Some argue he was the 'Sir Allan MacNab
of Hamilton Mountain', and that this man’s beloved Auchmar
Mansion stood as Dundurn Castle. But the Honourable Isaac Buchanan wouldn’t
have wanted that comparison. To be honest, he would have loathed
The mansion sits at the busy corner
of Fennell and West 5th still to this day as a reminder to the students
of Mohawk and the disturbed of West 5th psychiatric, that once all
that stood here was nothing but a man’s dream.
The Honourable Isaac Buchanan was a person of
many positions. He was a merchant in Hamilton and Toronto, a civic
leader and legendary public figure credited with many “firsts”
and a member of parliament from 1857 to 1863. He was also the first
president of the Hamilton’s Board of Trade which begin the
city’s transformation into manufacturing (step one of the
During his minute free time, in 1862
he helped establish the 13th Battalion Volunteer Military Infantry
(later to become the well-known Royal Hamilton Light Infantry).
Not surprising a man like this would need a “castle”
like Auchmar to call home and amaze visitors.
The name Auchmar was taken from Isaac’s family home in native Scotland. Not uncommon at the
time for immigrants to bring a bit of home with them to Canada.
The vast lands around the mansion were named Claremont (or Clairmont),
meaning “clear mountain” in French. This name remain
today with the Claremont access roads stretching from the foot of
Upper James (once part of Isaac’s land) down to Victoria and
Charlton. On a side-note, the Café Palazzo building just
North of Fennell was originally one of the buildings of the Auchmar
Original Carriage Laneway |
The Buchanan family held the deed to
Auchmar during which time much of the legend was created. Isaac,
being an important political figure, would have many famous friends
over to discuss policy or for a drink within the mansion’s
splendor. Such notables included Canada’s first Prime Minister
Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Allan MacNab, and the Prince of Wales.
Rumor has it that even the King himself, Elvis Presley, has walked
through the house.
Not bad for what was going to be the
Buchanan’s summer cottage. Hamilton can boast about once having
the grandest cottage in Canada. The Buchanan’s winter home
was a more modest structure in downtown, near today’s Canon
Street. Isaac loved Auchmar so much that he decided his family would
brave the treacherous Hamilton Mountain winters to stay within its
The Buchanan’s were forced to
move when Isaac became ill. Their new home was at 95 James Street
South in the core (a location that will be soon featured on Haunted
Hamilton’s Dark Past walk – Coming this Spring!).
Isaac died at 95 James on October
1st, 1883 at the age 74, while his beloved home stood empty and
dark upon the Mountain’s brow. The darkness mourned the passing
of its creator, welcoming a new part of the energy to fill the gothic
hallways for many years to come.
After the Buchanans
After Isaac’s death in 1883,
the house was sold to a British military man named Captain Trigg.
The two notable changes that occurred during the Captain’s
time were the converting of Isaac’s grand ballroom into a
preaching hall for the very religious Captain. He used it for his
congregation every Sunday at the mansion. The second was the invited
visit of local Hamilton author Mrs. (Alma) Dick-Lauder.
For those who have attended a Haunted
Hamilton Ghost Walk of the Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster, you would
recognize this name. Alma Dick-Lauder was the youngest daughter
of George Leith, the builder and first owner of the mansion which
stands in ruins in Dundas Valley. She was the last owner, and it
was at her party that caused the second (and final) fire that claimed
Even after the Hermitage became ruins,
Alma refused to leave her family’s land. She put up a tent
in the front yard and lived there with her crippled dog. The people
of Ancaster stepped up to help her one day when they gathered and
built her a comfortable wooden house within the walls of her former
estate. Alma lived out her days in that house, dying there in 1942.
Back in 1897 a book called Wentworth
Landmarks, for which Alma was the main contributor, was published
by the Hamilton Spectator press. Her visit and description of Auchmar
(“the Buchanan’s home”) from the time of Captain
Trigg is a rare look back into history, and the proud home that
old family home of the Buchanan’s is one of these set in
the midst of a grand old grove of trees and looking quaint and
beautiful as one approaches it. It cannot be called the house
of seven gables, but it nearly approaches it, there being five
along its front…
“The whole place was vacant for several years after the
Buchanan family moved into the city, and then a cultured English
gentleman named Capt. Trigg became its owner. He has had repairs
made, and while he remains there it is sure that the olden time
beauty of the place will remain…
“The hall is cathedral-like because its ceiling is Gothic.
Nor is it gloomy, as one might imagine. The effect is not gloom;
it is something different-a dim, religious light.”
Mrs. Dick-Lauder, from Wentworth Landmarks
James Buchanan, son of Isaac, returned in 1900
with a great offer for the Captain. This secured Auchmar to the
Buchanan’s once more. James and family would remain in the
home for 26 years, when A.V. Young (part of the well known Young
family in Hamilton) made Auchmar his home.
Main Hallway |
Main stairway |
Second Floor Washroom
A home it would remain until 1943.
World War II was raging in Europe and many hospitals were needed
for our returning heroes. Auchmar’s long halls and many rooms
made it a perfect hospital. A.V. rented the mansion out to the Royal
Canadian Air Force as a rehabilitation centre. It was a quick occupation,
when only two years later in 1945, the Hungarian Sisters of Social
Service bought the mansion for $32,500. The mansion and grounds
were converted to a religious retreat called the Holy Spirit Centre.
The sisters occupied Auchmar longer than any other resident, not
moving out until the 1990's. It was then that Auchmar became abandoned
for the second time.
Today Auchmar stands quiet and alone amongst a sea
of students, asylum patients and motorists at the busy intersection
of Fennell and West 5th. There it sits, hidden behind overgrown
trees, not being recognized as the great historic landmark it is.
How long can this house hold out? Will it still be there for future
generations, or will it become another black and white photograph
shown to eyes of disbelief?
The city feels a decision should come quick. There
is the problem of a sinking foundation on the west side, and also
the constant worry that the house will continue to crumble until
the walls collapse in on it.
All photos were taken by Stephanie Cumerlato
and are Copyright of Haunted Hamilton.
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