Paul Wilson: A Sign Past Its Time - Last strip club in Hamilton

Today's installment of the Sign Past Its Time series takes us to the front door of a club on Barton where the name changed outside – and nothing changed inside.
The club hasn't been Hanrahan's since the fall of 2000, but an old sign still sends patrons east. Hamilton Strip bouncer Jordan Connor likes the little touch of history. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

There might have been the odd flash of flesh at a vaudeville show somewhere in Hamilton in 1908, but strip clubs were still generations away.

That year a man named Thomas Hanrahan opened an establishment on Barton Street at Catharine. The name would come to be infamous, but back then the three-storey Hotel Hanrahan was described by the Hamilton Herald as "one of the leading hotels in Hamilton... It possesses every modern and up-to-date improvement."

The hotel stayed in family hands into the Dirty Thirties. And then, though we can’t say exactly when, the exotic dancers arrived.

Hanrahan’s was the city’s best-known strip club. But in the ‘90s it was attracting lots of the wrong headlines. "Tavern staff call 911 after receiving biker death threat." "Father-to-be slain at bar."

So 12 years ago this month, the owner of the day decided the best way to shed the nasty past was to pull down the Hanrahan name. In its place, he erected some hot-pink signs and opened Hamilton Strip.

The Hanrahan name came down after a 92-year reign on Barton Street East. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

The headlines continued, of course: "Hell’s Angels charged with leading a mob attack at Hamilton Strip." So they should have just left history alone.

There is one remnant. On the west door, always locked, there’s one leftover sign that says: "Hanrahan’s Customers Please Use Barton & Catharine Entrance."

Jordan Connor, 19, six-foot-four and 340 pounds, says he just noticed the old sign the other day. "I think it’s pretty neat," he says.

A few years ago the city bought Maxim’s on Gore Park and retired its adult-entertainment licence. That makes the place that was once Thomas Hanrahan’s perfectly respectable hotel the last strip club in Hamilton.

A Sign Past Its Time will pop up every now and then on CBC Hamilton. If you’ve spotted an old sign that needs its story told, do let me know. | @PaulWilsonCBC


Read more CBC Hamilton stories by Paul Wilson.