Blasts from the past – pictures of the Burlington that used to be. What kind of a city do you want to see come out of what we have?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 14, 2012   The city we live in and enjoy today wasn’t always what we see as we walk the streets.

We all ooh and ahh about the Burlington Performing Arts Centre – and it is a very well designed building.  It could use a little warmth here and there but the Family Room was a great idea that is working out very well.

There was a time when the site of the BPAC was once the Regional Police service Burlington detachment.  In the picture set out below you can see the parking lot that is now a multi-storey structure with the Tourism office, Pane Fresca, the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development people along with a five level garage.

It wasn’t always that way.

The old police station is shown in the upper left - now the location of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Poor Joe Brant – his house got torn  down and then a replica built and then the replica got moved.  When you’re in the Museum there, which is a bit on the shabby side, truth to tell, appreciate that it’s a remembrance of what used to be.  It got shifted to the east about 400 yards so the hospital could have a larger parking lot.  The actual ownership of the land to the east of the hospital has all kinds of strings attached to it.

Brant House on wheels traveling east about 400 yards to provide space for a parking lot.

The city’s legal department are probably the only people who fully understand the intricacies of the property that was given to Brant  by the British for his service during the American Revolutionary War.

Later this month the Conservation Authority will be holding a design event for the Beachway which is now a long stretch of land from the western end of Spencer Smith Park to the Canal.  They want to decide what should be done with that part of the city.

There was a time when a very vibrant community existed in that area.  The houses, which were on land that was owned by the Canadian National Railway, were leased to people who built cottages on the lots.  There was no street address as such for the property on the lake side of the railway line.  Les Armstrong, a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee and the Burlington Historical Society as well as the friends of Freeman Station  explains to people that you would tell your visitors that you live by the “first tower” or the “second tower”  which was a reference to the hydro towers that snake along the waterfront and then up through the city.

There is a small community – less than 30 homes – in the area now and they are fighting to remain there and ideally see the community built up now that the railway no longer runs along the edge of the lake.

There was a time when Beachway was populated with hundreds of homes.

All kinds of development talk – but a look at this aerial view of the downtown core on a late winter afternoon when everything is covered with a dusting of snow and the sun is getting ready to set.  This was in  2000 –  not much in the way of change since them.

Downtown core area, winter of 2000

How many reports have there been about “economic development” and bringing in those high tech, high paying jobs that everyone talks about.  The Simms Building, frequently known as City Hall South because of the number of  city departments in the building: Legal, Human Resources and Purchasing  are there now.  Might be better to buy the place.  Others are looking beyond adding to the space the city used in the downtown core.  All kinds of discussion and city council workshops on putting parking lots # 4 and # 5 to better use.  Councillor Jack Dennison was talking about this kind of change in 2000, didn’t get very far.  Development change takes time.

We are indebted to Joseph Hollick for the photographs used in this story.



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