Isaac Buchanan and Auchmar

The two plaques displayed here commemorate the life of Isaac Buchanan and his contribution to Hamilton.
They also celebrate his construction of Auchmar (located on the north east corner at the intersection of Fennell Avenue and West Fifth Street).

Isaac Buchanan the Builder

Aided by his wealth from an Upper Canada Dry Goods Empire, Isaac was encouraged to look for relief from the city's sticky summers and winters bayside blasts to erect a residence on Hamilton's Escarpment. There he established his growing family in a villa worthy of his economic and social position, and a place to entertain business and political friends. To do this, Isaac purchased eighty-six acres, which he called Clairmont Park. From this he walled off ten acres for a house called Auchmar.

Horse-drawn carriages brought visitors to his domain, passing a gate-lodge before continuing up a lane where arched trees bowed their heads in welcome. Entering a wide gate in the wall, they marvelled at his orchard, gardens, lawns and a dovecote: the marks of a Scottish laird. His 2-story manor house was a jewel of gothic revival architecture, with gables, French doors, arched windows and eleven chimneys.

Inside, crowned with gothic arches, ran lengthwise an eighty foot hallway, bisected near the end by a short hall, forming a crucifix. At each end a stairway led up to twelve bedrooms. The basement, large enough to hold a regiment of solders, housed the servants. In 1860 the home was sufficiently elegant to be considered a guest residence for the visiting Prince of Wales.

Isaac's career was as brilliant as multitudinous as his estate. Ranking high were his national and religious desires to mirror Scottish life in Canada. Beginning with his membership in York's church of Scotland, and later in the breakaway free church in 1844, he not only gave money to encourage new Presbyterian Congregations throughout the Province, but especially endowed Hamilton's Knox and MacNab street churches and the building of Toronto's Knox College. Today, a grateful church remembers this pillar among its laymen.

In the Canadian depression of the 1850s the city of Hamilton lay helpless at the door of bankruptcy. Buchanan successfully reorganized it financially. To serve his many interests, Isaac crossed the Atlantic at least twenty-nine times throughout his career.

The Honourable Isaac Buchanan and Auchmar

Isaac Buchanan was born in 1810 in Glasgow into a family that owned the Auchmar estate on the shores of Loch Lomond. At the age of 19 he was sent to Montreal to open a branch of an importing firm. Later after buying out the Toronto branch he moved to Hamilton in 1840.

Following service in the 1837 rebellion in 1841 Buchanan was elected to the first Union Parliament of the Canadas and was re-elected periodically over the next 25 years. At one time he was president of the executive council of the government.

In 1852 Buchanan bought land on the Hamilton Mountain and in 1854 built Auchmar house. Visitors to Auchmar included Lord Dufferin, Sir George Cartier, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Allan MacNab and Pope John Paul II when he was Cardinal. Black people were feasted at Auchmar on the anniversary of the Proclamation of Emancipation.

In 1863 Buchanan was authorized to establish the 13th Battalion of the militia, now renamed the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. As the first commanding officer, Buchanan gave the regiment its first colours and the motto "Semper Paratus". In 1866 the 13th saw action at the Battle of Ridgeway. The wounded from that battle, from the 13th and the Queen’s Own Rifles, were treated at Auchmar. In the Second World War Auchmar became a convalescent hospital for the RCAF wounded.

Buchanan founded the Hamilton Board of Trade. He advocated a central bank for Canada a century before the Bank of Canada was formed. He was partly responsible for bringing the Great Western Railway to Hamilton. Buchanan died in 1883.

Erected by the subscribers to Auchmar Millennium Fund.

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