C/O Yoohyun Park

Downtown Hamilton BIA initiative helping Hamiltonians new and old explore their home’s rich history

Moving to a new city inherently offers a number of opportunities to grow and try new things as you explore your new home and learn about its history. The city of Hamilton, particularly its downtown core, has a great deal of history built into it, though it can be difficult to know where to find it even if you’ve lived here for a long time. The Downtown Hamilton BIA new Memory Lane project is helping Hamiltonians new and old explore their home’s rich history. 

“Memory Lane is a self-guided walking tour of downtown Hamilton, using QR codes on mostly businesses, but there’s also some in planters. Basically, anything throughout the Bay Area, if you see a QR code, you can scan it, it’ll bring up the history of that building,” said Suzi Ozer, the operations manager at Downtown Hamilton BIA.

Ozer, along with Emily Walsh, the BIA’s community engagement coordinator, and the rest of the team at the Downtown Hamilton BIA were looking for ways to allow people to return to and explore downtown as safely and comfortably as possible during the ongoing pandemic. Memory Lane officially launched in May 2021.

“We wanted a way that people could explore downtown as safely as they possibly could. Because our ultimate goal was to get some people back down here in the shops and everything like that, just because that’s what our small businesses need is people through the doors…we thought [Memory Lane] would be great. You can do it on your own time, you can do it whenever you like with as many or as little people as you like and just really go with whatever you desire with that,” explained Walsh.

All the properties and their associated historical fact sheets are also listed online, on the BIA’s website, allowing community members to explore them from the comfort of their home as well.

To compile the information for the history fact sheets on each building, which include detailed accounts of the lives of each building as well as some photographs, Ozer collaborated with the Hamilton Public Library.

“The archives of the Hamilton Public Library were super helpful. I couldn’t go in person, but they were very quick, especially verifying [information]. Because when you’re looking at such a broad time frame from the 1800s to now you have street name changes and address changes so to verify if something was actually in this facility with them was super helpful,” said Ozer.

While their primary goal was to encourage people to return downtown in a safe way and support the businesses there, helping to educate the Hamilton community on their city’s rich history was also important to Ozer, Walsh and their team.

“[I hope they walk away with] an increased interest in the rich fabric that makes up our downtown, whether it’s the history or what’s currently going on,” said Walsh. “It’s just so many small pieces of a puzzle that come together and make up this really cool, vibrant place to work and live.”

Both also noted the benefit Memory Lane could have for students who are living and studying in Hamilton, as the project could offer them the opportunity to explore downtown on their own terms and learn more about the new community they live in.

“It’s a great way to get [students] out and acquainted with what’s going on. Because then you see, “Oh, the art gallery’s downtown,” and “there’s lots of great restaurants to try downtown.”…So I think this [Memory Lane] is a great segue into seeing everything that downtown has to offer, especially for students who are looking for something to engage with something to explore,” said Ozer.

Particularly, as many students arrive in Hamilton for the first time and begin to make their homes here, projects such as Memory Lane offer crucial opportunities to explore and become acquainted with all this remarkable city has to offer.


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