Friends of Freeman membership increases by one – artist brings gift with him.

By Pepper Parr

March 15, 2014


Much like the way rolling stock went through town at the Burlington Junction, what we fondly call Freeman Station, people come and go at the organization that is getting ready to begin real work on the structure that now sits on the north side of Fairview just before you get to the fire station.

It was a proud day for James Smith – the signing of the Joint Venture Agreement between the city and the Friends of Freeman Station.  Smith, standing behind the red light, signed on behalf of the organization.

The Board of Directors announced that James Smith, President of Friends of Freeman Station (FoF) has resigned for personal reasons – good personal reasons.  Smith will remain on the Board of Directors.  He was a lead player in the significant effort that saved the station from the wrecking ball – the city did everything it could to get rid of the building – weren’t even able to sell it for scrap wood.

Brian Aasgaard, will assume the position of President; he served as a Vice-President of Friends of Freeman Station for a number of years.  Brian has done an outstanding job as Vice-President, and will devote the same level of high energy and enthusiasm he has always shown. Brian has this uncanny knack for getting people to give the FoF stuff that relates to railway operations.

The FoF is always looking for new members, especially people who are good with tools and want a reason to get out of the house and be with the guys.

John Mellow stands in the cold with artist David Harrington proudly displaying a print of the building the FoF are refurbishing to its 1906 condition.

The renowned, internationally acclaimed heritage artist, David Harrington has taken out a membership and generously donated one of his limited edition prints to Friends of Freeman Station to assist in their fundraising efforts to restore the station back to its 1906 when it was first constructed. This limited edition “ The Burlington Freeman Station” print is numbered 19/500, signed by the artist.

Getting the public to take a sense of ownership in a project is a fine art – coming up with a name that tells the story in a few words is part art and part science.  The good people over at the Friends of Freeman Station appear to be breaking one of the cardinal rules in keeping a story alive and growing: never mix up the message.

Most people know it as the Freeman Station – even though officially it was the Burlington  Junction station and that is what the sign on the structure will say the day it is opened as a tourist destination.

We are seeing the words Burlington Junction being used – and that is in fact the real name of the station.  It was one of two train stops in Burlington.  The Burlington West station was the one used by the farmers to ship their produce into Toronto.  It was located near a farm owned by the Freeman family and came to be known as the Freeman station when in fact the Freeman’s and had nothing to do with the station.  Farmers tend to talk in terms of property by the name of the people who own the land – even though the ownership of that land changed hands years ago.

However, the public knows it as the Freeman Station – introducing the real name in media releases just confuses people.  Do what the politicians do – stick to the message.  If you don’t – you lose your audience.

Background links:

Freeman station saved – city signs the agreement.

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3 comments to Friends of Freeman membership increases by one – artist brings gift with him.

  • James Smith

    Thanks for the article – and you can blame me.

    Back when the Friends of Freeman Station got started, the late Les Armstrong, told me that there wasn’t really ever a Freeman, just what people called the place to distinguish between the two stations; Burlington Downtown, and Burlington Junction. Much the same as people today refer to Peter’s Corner.
    As Mark correctly points out there was indeed a tiny village of Freeman that was incorporated into Burlington
    So blame me for any confusion if you like.

    James Smith
    Past President
    Friends of Freeman Station

    • Joan Turbitt

      James I have lived here for nearly 60 years and many of us referred to the area as Freeman, as in it used to be a village before my time. I thought that was common knowledge.

  • To those that follow the Burlington Gazette, I wish to enlighten the readers on this particular Friends of Freeman Station article. There are some apparent unintentional errors by Pepper Parr that need to be addressed.

    The article incorrectly states that the station sits on the north side of Plains Road. The station actually is located on the north side of Fairview Street.

    There was a reference made about the Friends of Freeman Station looking for volunteers, which is true, but unfortunately, the statement loosely suggests that maybe we are only looking for men “who want to get out of the house and be with the guys”. In fact, we are recruiting for both men and women to help us out.

    The intro into the article could incorrectly lead readers to believe that there is substantial turnover at Friends of Freeman Station’s management. The two original founders of Friends of Freeman Station, the late Les Armstrong, Past President, and the late Jane Irwin, Past Vice-President, both pillars of community leadership in Burlington, have recently passed away and while they were with us, dedicated themselves with great passion to help save and preserve Freeman Station for the enjoyment of future generations. The core management of Friends of Freeman Station remains unchanged since the beginning, and they are still totally committed to the station’s restoration, as envisioned by both Les and Jane. The above photograph taken a few years ago shows that we were with Friends of Freeman Station then, and we are still here now, except for the late Les Armstrong, who is in in the back row and is partially blocked from view. The flippant reference about the late Jane Irwin and the late Les Armstrong as people coming and going can be interpreted as offensive and insensitive.

    Reference was made to the Freeman family, stating the station was called the Freeman Station because of its proximity to the Freeman’s farm. That statement is totally false. The Freeman Station name evolved because it was located in the Village of Freeman, and this nickname for the station was created and used by the local residents, while at the same time, the railways were obligated to use the official name, Burlington Junction. The Village of Freeman maintained its own Post Office with the Village of Freeman postmark designation until about 1952, which helped to keep alive the Freeman Station name right up to the present day. The Freeman family were original residents of the Village of Freeman and lived there for over 200 years. The fact that the station was located close to the Freeman farm is purely coincidental.

    The official name of the Freeman Station when it was constructed in 1906 was the Burlington Junction Station. The Burlington West reference didn’t occur until many, many years later, and only for a very brief time when it was a stop for the original GO Station.

    The cutline under the T-shirt photograph incorrectly suggests that the station after its restoration will be called the Burlington West Junction Station when it opens as a tourist destination. This whole statement is totally inaccurate, and it is extremely important that editorial misrepresentations like this be removed.

    I have to disagree with Pepper Parr’s opinion that introducing the real name in media releases just confuses people. It seems like a paradox that the very first line suggests Pepper Parr and others clearly understand the difference between the names Burlington Junction and Freeman Station, yet by the end of the article, Pepper Parr believes his readers will be confused about the two names, and Friends of Freeman Station will somehow lose our audience. Actually, the exact opposite is true. The Friends of Freeman Station is growing fairly quickly and is stronger than it has ever been as a charitable corporation, with impressive increases in membership, donations, public awareness, volunteers, and media coverage. We are more pleased than ever to see how the citizens of Burlington, both from the private and corporate sectors rallied behind our station’s preservation and restoration with their overwhelming support.

    The official name is “Burlington Junction Station”. The affectionate name is “Freeman Station”. It’s okay to use either name. Both will always be recognized by Friends of Freeman Station.

    And finally,the writer’s opinion about the Friends of Freeman Station breaking a cardinal rule and that we should never mix up our message is a real puzzle for us to comprehend. Our message has always been extremely clear and concise at all times. I’m just wondering who it might really be that is out there mixing up our message when we know it isn’t the Friends of Freeman Station.

    Full Steam Ahead!

    Mark Gillies
    Friends of Freeman Station
    Board of Directors
    Membership Chairman

    Editors note: It is always a delight to have readers that are informed and attentive. It keeps us on our toes.
    It is a significant stretch of the imagination however to suggest that we were flippant in our reference to either the late Jane Irwin or the late Les Armstrong. Both were what make Burlington the city it is today and were people we knew personally; they were both admired and respected.
    We did not know there was once a Freeman post office; the member of the Freeman family we talked to made no mention of it. We were told that the name Freeman Station came from “local usage”. We are not historians; we do our best to report.
    We did in error, in an early version of the piece mistakenly use the term Burlington West. That was corrected.