Isaac Buchanan

This historical building was once the home of famous Hamiltonian, Isaac issaccBuchanan, circa 1874. Come in and enjoy this wonderful piece of Hamilton history.

ISAAC, BUCHANAN, merchant, politician, and pamphleteer; b. 21 July 1810 at Glasgow, Scotland, fourth son of Peter and Margaret Buchanan; m. in January 1843 Agnes Jarvie at Glasgow, and they had 11 children; d. 1 Oct. 1883 in Hamilton, Ontario. 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.

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.isaac2

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.

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.

The collapse of 1857 left the city of Hamilton effectively bankrupt as a result of its heavy borrowing for railways and waterworks. With others from the city, Buchanan sought to negotiate a refinancing with the creditors (most of them in Britain) and then to see it through the assembly. In 1864 he at last secured passage of a law that reorganized the city’s debts and allowed it to resume payments. Throughout this period Buchanan continued to patronize Hamilton organizations. Closest to his heart were the Hamilton Board of Trade, for which, as its current president, he secured a charter of incorporation in 1864, and the 13th (Hamilton) Battalion of Infantry (later the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry), of which he was founder in 1862 and lieutenant-colonel for about two years.Rhli_capbadge_logo

isaac1Buchanan 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.

Douglas McCalla, “BUCHANAN, ISAAC,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 30, 2015,