When Deborah Brown moved to Hamilton in 1987, the downtown Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board headquarters was one of the first places she went.
The then-18-year-old moved from New Brunswick. She went to the school board offices for an interview with the director, seeking acceptance into a local high school.
“It made all the difference in the world,” Brown said. “I moved on my own. The public school system did me awesome.”
On Thursday, she watched as a building that helped her get acquainted with Hamilton was torn down.An architect's rendering of McMaster's life sciences building from Bay Street South and Main Street West. (Supplied)
The former school board headquarters was being fully demolished Thursday to make way for McMaster University's new life sciences centre.
The project will be 195,000 square feet and house about 450 employees. There will be about 4,000 medical students there, and 19,000 square feet will be used by the local health unit.
McMaster purchased the property from the HWDSB for $8.6 million.
“Everything is on schedule,” said Andrea Farquhar, McMaster's assistant vice-president of public and government relations.
Farquhar said the site will be completely cleared by the end of November or beginning of December. Construction preparation is expected to start immediately, she said.
Bill Vis went inside the former school board headquarters only once, in 1979. He was a 17-year-old high school student from Ainslie Wood Vocational High School looking for co-op credits.
“I can't believe it's being taken down,” he said, with both eyes on the demolition. “It has so much history.”
Gary Douglas worked around the building as a representative for First Nations organizations.
“It was always kept in immaculate shape,” he said. “It was a nice place to be.”
Douglas watched cranes pull the building apart Thursday in disbelief. He'd been there for hours.
“I didn't think it would actually come down,” he said. “It was in good shape.”
Farquhar said there will be no work done on the site Friday during the state funeral of former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander.
McMaster staff and students will start moving into the building in fall 2014, starting with medical resident students, she said.
Click on the video at the top of the page to see a video from 905 Hamilton that chronicles the demolition of the HWDSB headquarters.Bill Vis and Deborah Brown (right) watch the demolition of the former public school board building Thursday. (Julia Chapman/CBC)