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Property Crossroads 270 Sherman Avenue Hamilton

By Brian Burton

At one time 270 Sherman Avenue, located in downtown Hamilton Ontario housed over 3,735 spindles and 98 duck looms* for the manufacture of cotton drayer cloth, much like thin felt. (*Immense industrial equipment units which weave tightly woven, plain cloth or duck from cotton, linen yarns, or canvas.)

The structure was carefully constructed out of brick and timbre with very large wooden beams positioned across the 2nd and 3rd floor spaces: nearby is the original smokestack that was used by 3 original boiler systems, next to a huge warehouse that was originally used for painting, finishing and waterproofing cotton.

270 Sherman (former Imperial Cotton Company cotton mill), Sherman Ave. North

The beginnings of the industry that involved processing yarn can be traced back to Nova Scotia as far back as 1863 when the industry first began: the demand for sails for oceangoing vessels was such during that period that sea captains actually opened their own “shops” as they needed a tremendous amount of material to earn their living on the high seas. (This nautical tradition is reflected as records indicate that the Hamilton firm manufactured the sails for the famous “Bluenose” in its heyday.)

No ordinary factory and no run-of-the-mill company; world-famous and in its time, a “mammoth” presence in the yarn industry.

Nor was Hamilton just another metropolis on the Canadian landscape. The city made a determined submission to become Canada’s capital, and according to some, if they had agreed to promote bilingualism they could have suceeded.

According to Canada’s Gov. Gen. at the time Hamilton could have very likely been selected by Queen Victoria, who referred to Ottawa or Bytown, as it was known at the time, was a “muddy, insignificant outback.” [Needless to say, the Canadian landscape would be an entirely different place if Hamilton had succeeded.]

Hamilton, in addition to its well-known “Burlington Skyway, 8,400 ft. bridge, also boasts many impressive commercial and institutional buildings including the 18 storey Piggott Building, a well-known landmark and the Royal Connaught Hotel, a 13-story downtown building with a long tradition.

Heritage Hamilton

They call it “Steeltown”, a name that has stuck since 1910: Home of the famous Dundurn Castle a 40-room villa built of brick and covered in stucco, distinguished by broad verandas, three-storey towers and slate roofs on Burlington Heights. Remnants of a War of the 1812 fortifications are still evident incorporating a dovecote, coach house, stables, cockpit and gardener’s cottage – all considered an important examples of early Canadian heritage history.

Also, home to the oldest road race in North America; Around the Bay, won by Tommy Longboat in 1936.

Imperial Cotton Company

Located in the middle of this vibrant city, the gateway to the Great Lakes with an impressive name: Imperial Cotton Company Ltd., the firm eventually merged with another large company and became known as Cosmos-Imperial Mills Limited; “charting the waters”, so to speak in that it processed orders using a sophisticated “code”, the equivalent of computerized, state-of-the-art manufacturing.

The number of employees was such that they had their own newspaper, a staff lunchroom the size of a small stadium which featured its own piano, and rows of state-of-the-art refrigerators. In its heyday, the company manufactured heavy cotton sails, roofing for railroad cars and material used for huge signs, circus big tops and tarpaulins that were shipped to countries around the world.

Designed by a well-known Hamilton architect, Edmund Patterson who designed many industrial buildings in Hamilton and Niagara Falls, including the International Harvester industrial facility and many churches and structures of note in Hamilton.

270 Sherman Re-Purposed

Today, 270 Sherman has been re-purposed as a creative complex. The original structures of the building remain and have been noted as one of the most complete historic mill complexes that still exist in the country.

The 5 buildings which together comprise the 270 Sherman complex are perhaps 2nd only to the Distillery District in Toronto as a complete example of a 19th Century industrial complex. Built using a brick veneer on a 3-acre site with its prominent tower still visible at least some of the original machinery has been preserved within the buildings 160,000 sq. ft. “footprint”.

The architectural style, with its prominent tower suggests a gothic influence and it was designed to compete with other large commercial structures of the day.

The Cotton Factory re-purposed space maintains the old factory feel.

Today, in a manner that reflects its historical significance and what we now recognize as an important part of “industrial heritage”. Today spaces in the building today have been transformed into various workshops for craftspeople, office space for creative professionals, and studios for artists.

Over 50 tenants call the facilities of 270 Sherman home for their creative practices in the new The Cotton Factory. Among them are photographers, designers, painters, potters, filmmakers and woodworkers.

The character and environment is unique and utterly realistic in every sense in the building and site have been used for literally hundreds of feature movies, documentaries and television shows.

Spaces in the building are also used for fundraising activities, nonprofit association meetings and events and many other popular activities in the vibrant city of Hamilton. Find out more about 270 Sherman on their website. Website:

Property Crossroads is a new regular feature of Monster Commercial Real Estate and features articles on prominent buildings listed on the MCRE website. Make sure your firm is posted on the Monster Commercial CRE Resource Directory: the one-stop source that commercial building owners and tenants can count on.

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