Indwell’s The Oaks: Ain-dah-ing

Location: Hamilton, ON

Client: Indwell

Year of Completion: 2022

Final Construction Cost: $3,948,000

Architect of Record: Invizij Architects

The Royal Oak Dairy East Avenue North, south of Barton, is one with a rich history in Hamilton. Royal Oak Dairy began in 1898 on East Avenue North as a one-horse operation, run out of the basement of owner George Hamilton’s home. By the 1930s, the city had 23 dairies. Royal Oak was the last one standing, closing in 1981.

Over the years, this active site fell into disuse as milk production moved outside the city core due to processing improvements such as refrigeration. Since that time, the site had been used for various warehousing and an attempt at building rental apartments which was not completed. Indwell purchased the site in 2018 and hopes to transform the site into homes for 95 tenants. The first phase included 95 units of affordable housing.

The second phase of the redevelopment included the stables building. Originally, the building was 2 ½ storeys and included storage for the milkwagons on the ground floor, horse stables on the second floor – which were accessed by a long ramp, and storage for hay on the top floor. This narrow building was converted into 13 studio apartments which are being overseen by local nonprofit housing provider, Sacajawea.

The conversion of a building that has been mostly unoccupied for half a century created some challenges, but in the end the brick façade remains as a reminder of the site’s history and the small horse-size windows remain as a reminder of the past – lengthened where needed for the apartments. The stables building was rebuilt from the interior, given lots of insulation and airsealed. With triple glazed windows, the building, despite its age and state of disrepair, still meets the standards for Passive House.

Various historic artifacts from the former dairy have been repurposed in the new building, including a timeline with large-scale prints of photographs of the original horse & wagon and vehicles from the days of milk delivery. Chandeliers were created by Invizij using the original milk bottles, and contemporary wallpapers and signage were created based on the original fonts and iconography from the dairy.

One highlight of the project is a mural that was created by local artist Lester Coloma. The design is an interpretation of the local fauna and fauna, and includes a birch bark canoe, indigenous paddlers, and an eagle to represents courage & strength. The ground floor is now home to Sacajawea’s head office. A final phase is in development at the south side of the site, called Acorn Flats.

Project Location