There are 7,000 addresses on Hamilton’s list of properties of historical or architectural interest. Here’s a peculiar one they missed.

You’ve probably driven past it, heading east on Main. It’s at Gage, a wedge-shaped two-storey curiosity that’s shoehorned between the street and the CP tracks. At Main, the building is about eight feet wide. Take the long walk to the back and you’ll find it’s nearly 10 times that.

Such structures are sometimes called flatiron buildings, with a footprint resembling a clothes iron. This example doesn’t have the rounded prow, but it’s a beaut all the same.


There's not much frontage on Main, but the building goes a long way back on Gage – and gets wider all the way. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

It can’t claim the fame of New York City’s Flatiron building on Fifth Avenue, or Toronto’s Gooderham Flatiron on Wellington. In fact, the triple-bricked boat at Main and Gage has no profile at all.

And yet it’s been right there for about a century.

In the early days, when Gage was still known as Trolley Street, it was home to Dodds Brothers Garage. Mechanical work was performed downstairs, while cars needing a paint job or bodywork took the big elevator to the top.

Then a new owner moved in big linotype machines and the building became the home of Guardian Press.

Les tried everything

But for the last 25 years, the sign out front has said Sealed Art. Les Stone, 62, is founder.

He went to high school down the way at Scott Park. He tried his hand at truck driving, the steel mills, selling insurance. Then, while selling miracle paint pads at the Ex, he got talking to someone down the aisle whose specialty was laminating — plaquing peoples’ photos, artwork, diplomas.

Les started in the business in a small way, and he prospered. Then he needed the right building, with a work area and lots of room to display the posters he sold.


One Sealed Art customer felt moved to sketch the peculiar Main and Gage landmark. (Konrad P. Marozas)

And there in the listings was the fantastic flatiron. He saw all that wall space, all those windows, the airy 12-foot ceilings, the massive steel beams with not a pesky supporting wall in sight. He was sold. He got it for $125,000. "I knew I’d never run out of space."

The flatiron is his home too. Son Julian Brisebois, who’s joined him in the business, also lives there with his wife and young son. So does brother Jesse, a carpenter.

They’re all upstairs, three generations worth, and a triangular building is just perfect. Les gets the south corner, Julian and family get the west corner and Jesse gets the east, in a room behind a stage.

Everyone plays something

Yes, there is music at the flatiron, because everyone under this roof is a musician. There have been shows up here, and will be again soon.

Sealed Art doesn’t sell posters anymore. The Web killed that. But framing is offered now. And demand for laminating has stayed steady.

Sealed Art is a gallery too. Currently it’s showing the work of Linda Towart, some 200 pieces. She loves singers of every kind, and her images of Ella, Nat, Dizzy, Billie cover the flatiron walls. There are local portraits too, like Tom Wilson and Ginger St. James.


The work of Linda Towart covers the walls of Sealed Art right now. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

Les Stone likes the way life turned out. "Art is a fun business," he says. "It’s something people want to spend money on, unlike the plumber."

Those tracks that turned his building into a triangle are still used by a couple of freights a day, hauling scrap metal, new product from National Steel Car, cargo of every kind. But he doesn’t feel the rumble anymore.

He has enough tie-dye shirts to wear a different one every day, so the man’s definitely hip. He knows right angles are for squares. There are no plans whatsoever to leave the quirky castle.

Read more CBC Hamilton stories by Paul Wilson here.