Indwell’s The Oaks: Heartwood & Dairy Lofts

Location: Hamilton, ON

Client: Indwell

Year of Completion: 2022

Final Construction Cost: $23,000,000

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 new development includes the re-building of the existing dairy building with three storeys and historic detailing reminiscent of the existing dairy – now called Dairy Lofts. Beside it is a contemporary five storey structure – called Heartwood Apartments. Both buildings sit atop a parking structure.

The brick building for Royal Oak Dairy on East Avenue North was built in 1929 when milk was still delivered by horse-drawn wagons and the horse stable part of the building is still evident. Indwell’s goal is to reflect the historic character of the original dairy building, however with a new building as the original was in too poor a state of disrepair. The original horse stable structure, with a long ramp that was used to bring the horses to the second level above the carriages, remains and has been restored as phase two of the redevelopment. An outdoor gathering space between the coach house and two new buildings creates a semi-public space called the Piazza, and the entire development will be designed and built to the Passive House standard.

Various historic artifacts from the former dairy have been repurposed in the new building, including 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.

Phase two in the stables building has also been completed, called Ain-dah-ing, and a final phase is in development at the south side of the site, called Acorn Flats.

Project Location