Welcome to another edition of "Two Sides of Barton." Our resident guest blogger and senior correspondent Linda Kraan-Benson has lived in the Barton Village neighbourhood for twelve years, and she's bringing readers an in-depth account of her experiences of the neighbourhood, from the perspective of both a passionate, engaged community member and a senior citizen navigating issues of accessibility and social connection in a city whose infrastructure can present serious challenges. Read on for the first leg of Linda's walking tour of Barton Village, in which she explores the grounds of the Hamilton General Hospital.
Today, I will discuss the Hamilton General Hospital, one of the cornerstones of the Barton Village neighbourhood. Part of the larger Hamilton Health Sciences Network, the General, as it is loving referred to, is not just about medical care, though it certainly shines in that department. Long known for its burns unit, the General is also now renowned for its stellar cardiology department.
As a pensioner, I am encouraged to have such a hospital in my own backyard. If I need to go to the ER, it is a mere five- minute walk for me. Of course, I am not suggesting you put a visit to the Hamilton General as a patient on your to-do list, but I encourage you to take a walk around the grounds of the hospital, whenever you have the chance.
I encourage you to begin with a walk around the outside of the building. I was extremely impressed with the alleys and walkways, the “hidden” courtyard, and the lovely manicured gardens. When I first moved to the neighbourhood, I would often take a walk to the hospital, grab a coffee from their café, and go sit in their gardens. There are many chairs and benches, surrounded by the solitude and the whispering of their many bushes and trees. Once you are inside the courtyard, the silence is overwhelming; gone is the noise of the emergency vehicles and the hustle and bustle of foot traffic to the hospital.
Beyond the main doors of the hospital, there is a fabulous little gift store. If you have never visited there, I hope you do. They sell everything from books to clothing, and they have some of the most beautiful shawls, pants, and skirts — very trendy, I must say. There have been times when I needed a small gift, in a hurry — you know those moments when you are invited out for dinner, or when you have forgotten someone’s birthday? Well, I have often gone into that little store and found that perfect gift, from kitchen plaques to candles, from dolls to jewelry, faux plants to real living foliage, from watches to earrings. You need baby gifts? They have them in spades, as well as cards, magazines, and so much more.
Of course, you will find a coffee shop on the main floor of the hospital, where you can buy breakfast sandwiches, muffins, soup, and the normal cafe fare. As writing of this blog, the larger cafeteria on the lower level is in the midst of renovations. [Editor's note: renovations have since been completed, and the new downstairs cafeteria features a slew of great lunch options, Starbucks coffee in addition to the house cafe, and a beautiful, well-appointed seating area]
On one of my walkabouts, I spotted a sign that said “Go Tango.” Curiosity got the better of me, as it always does. Upon locating the entrance, on Wellington Street, I found a perfectly sized restaurant. Here, you can find the flavours of the Mediterranean, from snacks with humus, to pita wraps and so much more. A perfect little hidden gem.
One thing the General is known for is its rooftop helicopter pad -- it's the only hospital in Hamilton to have one. Although of course you can only view it from street level, the helipad is a great place to take the kids to; it's really exciting for the little ones to get to see the helicopters landing and taking off. Of course, many living close to the hospital may not agree with me -- after all, hearing the hum and whir of the copter at three o'clock in the morning may not appeal to many -- but isn't it wonderful to know that we have this facility here in our own backyards, saving countless lives over the course of the year? What a wonderful service we have, so close to home!
Over the twelve years that I have lived here in Barton Village, I have watched the hospital expand and grow as new specialized departments have opened. A few years ago, a rehab and wellness department was added on, and more recently the Ron Joyce Children's Health Centre. Parking lots have opened along Barton street, with several more lots lining Victoria avenue.
As the hospital has grown, its staff have seemed to venture more along Barton Street and become part of the community, especially those shops that have opened up along the blocks between Victoria and Emerald Avenues over the past few years. I hope that as the hospital continues to function as an anchor of the Barton Village neighbourhood, more people will be motivated to explore the grounds and realize all that the hospital has to offer, beyond some of the best medical care in the province.