Hamilton Mountain Auchmar author offended by city snub

Leanne Pluthero is upset.

The Hamilton Mountain resident and enthusiast of all things Auchmar recently noticed on social media Hamilton Civic Museums promoted weekly public tours of the 19th-century mansion on West Fennell Avenue and West 5th Street without including it as in the past.

“I was always aware,” said Pluthero, who in 2021 had his book « Auchmar: portrait of a house” published. His research included visits to the National Archives in Ottawa. A second book on servant life at the West Mountain site is expected to be released before Christmas.

Pluthero said she helped organize Auchmar tours through Doors Open Hamilton since 2017. These tours were suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pluthero said when she inquired about the new tours (which were due to begin July 23), she was told they would be led by paid city staff rather than volunteers.

“I’ve dedicated the last six years of my life, devoting all my free time to doing this research, Pluthero said. “I thought it was such a low blow, no one knows this house better than I do.” Pluthero said she had had a good working relationship with city officials in the past.

Environmental aid to St. Joseph’s Healthcare East Hamilton Urgent Care Center on the day, Pluthero said she didn’t need to be around for the tours, but would like to be involved in the process.

“I want to make sure the appropriate story is shared,” said Pluthero, who received a Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee Education Award last winter for her work on Auchmar, though she doesn’t only discovered this honor in recent weeks. “I know the deadlines, I know the families, I know the servants, I know the layout, I know everything about this house.”

Pluthero said some city workers told her she would be blacklisted if she raised her concerns publicly, but that doesn’t worry her. “If they want to blacklist an author and someone who won the education award for Auchmar, go ahead,” she said. “They can blacklist me, that would be another fight.”

City officials say the tour offered this year is a general 45-minute introduction to the history of the house and property based on public sources such as historicplaces.ca. Tours are free, but donations are accepted and will go to United Way of Hamilton.

“(City) staff have been in contact with Leanne Pluthero and will be working with her in the coming months to improve the themes and content of the tours,” said Michelle Shantz, communications manager in the city manager’s office.

Lola R. McClure