The Umbrella Academy brought $20M to Hamilton - and lots of visuals

COVID-19 forced a three-month halt to TV and film productions in Hamilton this year, but one new high-profile Netflix production showcases the city's versatility — The Umbrella Academy.

The show accounted for 38 of the 790 location permits the city issued last year

The cast of the Umbrella Academy stand in an elevator at Hamilton's city hall. In season two of the show, the building is supposed to be located in Dallas, Texas. (Netflix screen cap)

COVID-19 forced a three-month halt to TV and film productions in Hamilton this year, but one new high-profile Netflix production showcases the city's versatility — The Umbrella Academy.

Netflix released season two of the popular show on July 31, and it features 38 locations around Hamilton, says Debbie Spence, the city's film business development consultant. Nearly all of them were designed to resemble Dallas, Texas.

The show and its Hamilton crew of 120 generated about $20 million for the local economy last year, including restaurant meals and crew parting gifts, she said. That's about one third of the total $59 million film productions spent in Hamilton.

All told, the show accounted for 38 of the 790 location permits the city issued to a combined 138 productions last year, Spence said. 

COVID-19 forced the city to halt filming from April to June this year, but filming resumed July 6, she said. Since then, the city has issued 26 permits. So far this year, it's issued 143, and from April to June last year, it issued 209.

So numbers are down, Spence said, but she's still optimistic.

"The good news is that since July 6, Hamilton has seen a solid number of productions and expect more to come in September through the end of this year," she said. "Typically our busiest months for filming are July to October."

Productions are treated like workplaces, she said, which means physical distancing is in effect. That means crews are spreading out, and need more holding spaces. The city has reached out to some local businesses — especially music venues — to see how they can get involved, she said.

The Umbrella Academy filmed in the following places:

  • City hall at 71 Main St W. 
  • Vienna Tavern at 152 Grenfell St.
  • 610 Beach Rd.
  • Ottawa Street, including 82, 82.5 (an alleyway), 174, 180, 204, 201, 233 Ottawa St. 
  • An alley behind 223 Ottawa St.
  • The Westinghouse headquarters at 286 Sanford Ave. N.
  • The former Cathedral High School at 380 Main St E.
  • The Germania Club of Hamilton at 863 King St E.
  • Belmont Avenue between Barton Street East and Campbell Avenue.
  • 729 and 765 Barton St E. 
  • Lawson Lumber at 260 Dunsmure Rd. 
  • Breezy Corners restaurant at 1145 Main St E.
  • The Emerald Street pedestrian bridge. 
  • Corktown Irish Pub at 175 Young St.
  • Her Majesty's Army and Navy Veterans Hall at 96 MacNab St.
  • Dundurn national historic site at 610 York Blvd.

Here are five spots you can't help but notice:

1. Ottawa Street. Again and again

Season one of The Umbrella Academy featured plenty of Gore Park. The main characters lived there. They walked down the street there. They weathered a foreshadowed Gore Park apocalypse.

Season two is full of Ottawa Street. It's the setting of an often-used diner, and hair salon, and appliance store. The alleys are used as restaurants and time travel portals. Episode one features even more apocalyptic visuals.

The major change: when viewed facing the industrial area, the landscape has been modified to include the skyline of downtown Dallas.

The parking lot of Laidlaw United Church at Cannon and Ottawa became a parking lot for some of the show's old cars. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Ottawa Street makes frequent appearances in the show, which is set in November 1963. (Netflix)

2. City hall

Hamilton's city hall is a building used by nefarious forces in season two, and it's not even particularly disguised.

The characters enter through the back end of city hall. Inside, the decor is intact, including a large patterned wall leading to the council chambers. The main difference is a Tiki Lounge on one of the upper floors, which needless to say is not usually there.

Hamilton's city hall made an appearance again. (Netflix)

3. Vienna Tavern

The Vienna Tavern does double duty in The Umbrella Academy. On the inside, it serves as a bar that necromancer Klaus visits. On the outside, it serves as the Plano Street Rooming House for Solitary Men.

The Vienna Tavern does double duty, with both the inside and outside serving as different locations. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
The Vienna Tavern at 152 Grenfell St. is a popular spot to film bar scenes. (Netflix)
The Vienna Tavern also serves as the Plano Street Rooming House for Solitary Men. (Netflix)

4. Emerald Street pedestrian bridge

This metal bridge, which HistoricBridges.org says dates back to 1946, connects Birge Street with Emerald Street North. In The Umbrella Academy, it shows up in episode nine.

The Emerald Street pedestrian bridge is shot from several angles in The Umbrella Academy. (Netflix)
The Emerald Street pedestrian bridge connects Birge Street with Emerald Street North. (Google Maps)

5. 765 Barton St E.

A shop partially occupied by Furlan Conservation became a hardware store where Klaus makes a desperate attempt to change the course of history. And no, we can't elaborate.

Part of Furlan Conservation on Barton Street East became a hardware store. (Netflix)
This is what the storefronts usually look like. (Google Maps)

Season two again features Hamilton actor T.J. McGibbon as young Vanya, and used clothes from VintageSoulGeek in the International Village.

Spence said Hamilton-filmed productions from 2019 are also due to show up on Hulu, Amazon, CTV, CBC, Discovery Channel, CNN and Global.



Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca