Sherman Avenue

Walking between Clinton and Landsdowne Streets

Preparing to deliver relief baskets from the Sherman Ave. police station, December 24 1914

Sherman Avenue was the downtown of Hamilton’s East End. Listen to Louis Fiori, Gene Yachetti, Benni Ferri and Mary Fiori remember the neighbourhood shops as well as the horse and wagon deliveries that served the area.

This was once the main thoroughfare of Hamilton’s “foreign colony.” Before the destruction of many buildings in the 1970s, this avenue was crowded with thousands of people from east Hamilton’s diverse ethnic population. In the mid-20th century, residences were interspersed with shops all the way down to Burlington Street East. Sherman got its fascinating character from the cultural diversity of the families and merchants that settled here.

On any given day, you would find women out shopping for the day’s meal at one of the many butchers, bakers, grocers or fruit shops that lined this street. Men might be seen making their way to the local barber to get a shave and haircut, or paying a visit to the local tobacconist to purchase a “stogie” before they visited one of the local clubs to play some cards or pool. All along the street, people would stop to talk to friends and neighbours. In the early evening, the street would be filled with thousands of men coming home from work in the heavy industries at the north end of the street. Later in the evening, young couples might take in a movie at the Playhouse Theatre. On Sundays, area residents in their finest clothes would walk up this avenue to one of the churches close to the corner of Barton Street East and Sherman Avenue North.

Heavy industry also shaped the street. Stelco and International Harvester dominated its north end. Other prominent firms were clustered around the railway tracks just north of Princess Street: Brown Boggs, Frost Steel and Wire, Remington Rand, Wallace Barnes, Burlington Steel, Cosmos Imperial Mills, Sovereign Potters, Standard Underground Cable and Canada Wire and Cable Company. The opening up of new industry attracted the first settlers to the area. “If you want a hot dinner, buy a lot here,” said a 1911 real estate ad. Living in the shadow of the industry that had brought them here, the immigrants of Sherman Avenue North built communities and carved out their own place in the city.