Gillies thinks civic recognition of John Waldie embarrassing and pathetic, suggests naming something significant after the 'Father of Burlington'

Who Knew 100x100 2015By Mark Gillies

March 13, 2015


John Waldie was an incredible man; a son of Burlington, who from humble origins rose to fame and fortune. He was a great philanthropist, and a man who was proud to call Burlington his home.

John Waldie Portrait 1906 P4

In 1906 in St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Victoria Harbour, this portrait of John Waldie was taken to honour the man that built the church. St Paul’s opened that same year. In 1907 John Waldie died of heart failure and was buried at historic Greenwood Cemetery in Burlington.

John Waldie made a huge impact on the small community of Victoria Harbour with the establishment of the Victoria Harbour Lumber Company. Today, the Waldie sawmills are gone, the lumber business is no more, but many of the local buildings that John Waldie built, are still in use today.

These landmarks, including St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, the General Store and the Library have been officially recognized as historical, and are an integral part of Victoria Harbour’s exciting past life as one of Canada’s largest lumber producing communities.

Victoria Harbor Heritage Properties P4

The Village of Victoria Harbour has recognized 22 buildings as having historical significance. Half of this total are buildings built by John Waldie and the Victoria Harbour Lumber Company including St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, the General Store and the Library, all three donated to the community by the philanthropist John Waldie and the Victoria Harbour Lumber Company.

“The Legacy of John Waldie and Sons”, is the history of the Victoria Harbour Lumber Company, and the Waldie family. Written by Kenneth A. Armson and Marjorie McLeod it does both the man and his work justice. Might not be available in local bookstores but it can be purchased on line at |Amazon.

The Legacy of John Waldie P4

 You won’t find this book on the best seller’s list, but “The Legacy of John Waldie and Sons” is a very interesting read. You will learn so much more about this incredible man and his family.

Out west in Castlegar, British Columbia, the Waldie sawmills are also gone, having closed in 1961. But, the residents of Castlegar still remember the Waldie legacy. Today, Waldie Island on the Columbia River has been turned into a nature park with hiking trails. A bird sanctuary, has been set up for the revival of the blue heron on the Waldie Island Heron Reserve. The idea is to reclaim the historical heritage of this part of the Columbia River.
The Waldie family has left a huge economic legacy in Canada, and the little communities of Victoria Harbour and Castlegar have done their part and remembered the Waldie family and their enormous contributions to these two communities.

Waldie Island P4

Pic: Waldie Island The citizens of Castlegar, British Columbia, to honour the Waldie family were pro-active and developed Waldie Island located in the middle of the Columbia River into a beautiful wilderness location complete with hiking trails and a bird sanctuary.

Burlington, as we all know, has been reported to be one of the best places to live in Canada, and this community has also remembered and recognized the Waldie legacy, but not quite in the same manner as Victoria Harbour and Castlegar.

Dan Chalykoff p4

 Dan Chalykoff is a professional heritage consultant, with outstanding credentials, retained by the City of Burlington to assess the city’s historical properties. His recommendations were pretty much ignored by the volunteer committee Heritage Burlington.

The Waldie home at 3265 Mayfair Place, known as “Erin” was added to the Heritage Registry several years ago. The historic home was built around 1845 by Henry Sovereign, an original United Empire Loyalist descendent. His father John bought the land from Christiana Hill, a daughter of Joseph Brant in 1812.

Recently, a heritage report was commissioned by the City of Burlington with Mr. Dan R. Chalykoff, a professional heritage consultant with outstanding credentials, to create an Interim Evaluation which was made available in January 2013.

Mr. Chalykoff stated in his report that the home (3265 Mayfair Place) remain on the register for possessing cultural value and interest under all three of the main criteria listed in Ontario Regulation 9/06 from the Heritage Act. His detailed report also stated, “without this property all built vestiges of Burlington’s settlement era in this neighbourhood will be extinct”.

Sovereign House & Erin P4

 On the right is 3265 Mayfair Place, or “Erin” as it looks today. This beautiful residence has undergone several changes over the years since it was originally built around 1845, but it is still historical and is a very important part of Burlington’s heritage. The home on the left is “Sovereign House” in Bronte. Now owned by the Bronte Historical Society, this historic home was built over several years from about 1825 until around 1846 and today operates as a heritage museum. The two homes are strikingly similar in design. David Sovereign built the “Sovereign House” residence, while Henry Sovereign from the same family built “Erin”.

In  May 2013, James M. Clemens, Chairman of Heritage Burlington, which is a committee of volunteer citizens that report to the City of Burlington, overturned Mr. Chalykoff’s professional opinion and recommended that “Erin” be removed from the Heritage Registry. With vague non-proven references to the house, Clemens goes on record and states, “the present dwelling has perhaps been incorrectly dated to 1845”, and that parts of the house do not line up to the stone rubble basement, and “it may be that the original dwelling over the rubble basement was razed”, and parts of the house appear to be late Victorian and part Edwardian.

These were the main non-professional reasons given for the reversal of keeping this historic 170 year old residence on the Heritage Registry. Mr. Clemens and his committee have apparently ignored the fact that it was not uncommon for residents of that time to alter their dwelling over several years, something that does not usually affect the heritage and historical value of a residence.

I share the views of Chalykoff   that there is an incredible amount of historical significance to this famous 170 year old residence called “Erin”, despite it being cosmetically updated. In my opinion, Heritage Burlington under the guidance of Chairman James Clemens have made a very serious error. This is unacceptable.

James Clemens was Chairman with the same Heritage Burlington committee that recommended 504 Burlington Avenue be removed from the Heritage Registry for lack of historical significance. May I remind Mr. Clemens that 504 Burlington Avenue was the Lorimer residence for 50 years. It was built by renowned custom home builder George Blair, whose other homes in the core area have been recognized as historically significant, and I might add with much less historical relevance than that of the Lorimer residence.

One of Burlington’s greatest historical magnetic personalities of the early 20th century was the owner Harry Lorimer, who was the station master at the historic Freeman Station when it opened in 1906, and he was also the station master for the previous Freeman Station, before it burned to the ground in 1904.

Harry Lorimer changed careers and went into the retail business and purchased Allen’s Hardware Store, at the corner of Brant & Pine Streets, from James S Allen, a former Mayor of Burlington, and turned it into a retail legacy providing local market gardeners and homeowners with everything they needed.

The Colton & Lorimer Hardware store was the leading retail catalyst for Burlington moving quickly into the 20th century as it began to transition itself from an agricultural town to a suburban community. Yes, Mr. Clemens, there is great historical significance to the residence at 504 Burlington Avenue. It was the home of an outstanding citizen of Burlington. You sir, and Heritage Burlington have made another serious error. This is unacceptable.

Harry Lorimer & 504 Burlington Avenue p4

 Harry Lorimer is another outstanding citizen of Burlington from the early 20th century whose great contributions to Burlington’s development have gone unnoticed and unrecognized. Heritage Burlington has removed the Lorimer residence at 504 Burlington Avenue from the Heritage Registry. From their ignorant point of view there was a lack of historical significance.

These are just two glaring examples of incredibly bad judgment by this committee. Heritage Burlington under the questionable leadership of James Clemens have recommended to City Council the removal of many more historical properties from the Heritage Registry designation. In my opinion, Heritage Burlington appears to be more counter- productive than anything else. They are failing miserably to recognize and preserve our most valuable historical properties. This is unacceptable. Is this how Heritage Burlington is going to recognize John Waldie and the Waldie family’s contribution to Burlington?

James Clemens and Marianne Meed Ward p4

James Clemens is the Chairman of Heritage Burlington. With Mr. Clemens is Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who also sits on the Heritage Burlington committee and represents the City of Burlington. Heritage Burlington has been systematically recommending removal of some of Burlington’s most historical properties from the Heritage Registry.


John Waldie Study Hall p4

On the second floor of the Burlington Central Library you will see for yourself what the City of Burlington has done to recognize one of its greatest philanthropic citizens. There is a small sign hanging overhead, “John Waldie Study Hall”. On the wall to the left of the door is a framed portrait of John Waldie. This is the same 1906 photograph from St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Victoria Harbour. Do the words pathetic or embarrassing come to mind?

Not to be outdone by Heritage Burlington, here’s how the City of Burlington has recognized John Waldie, Canadian philanthropist, the “Father of Burlington”, and the “Father of the Burlington Library”. Need I say more.

James Clemens is the Chairman of Heritage Burlington. With Mr. Clemens is Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who also sits on the Heritage Burlington committee and represents the City of Burlington. Heritage Burlington has been systematically recommending removal of some of Burlington’s most historical properties from the Heritage Registry.

Here are a few of my suggestions in my order of importance to better recognize John Waldie as one of Burlington’s greatest citizens.

1.) The Burlington Central Library is a very boring and uninspiring name. We can do better. My suggestion is to rename it “The John Waldie Memorial Library”.
2.) Erect a bronze statue at City Hall and locate it on the City Hall grounds in an appropriate open space complete with a small engraved biography of the man.
3.) Name the City Hall property “John Waldie Square” with the sub-heading,
“Father of Burlington”. Add a plaque to a prominent position on the grounds of City Hall.
4.) Add John Waldie’s portrait complete with a description to the lobby of City Hall, local fire and police stations, schools, and any other local public buildings.
5.) John Waldie was involved in shipping, owning several lake freighters, that operated from the three wharves at the foot of Brant Street. Consider naming the new pier after John Waldie.
6.) Rename Mayfair Place where the Waldie home now stands. Call it John Waldie Place or something similar.
7.) Name a park after John Waldie. How about Central Park? That’s not a great name.

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2 comments to Gillies thinks civic recognition of John Waldie embarrassing and pathetic, suggests naming something significant after the ‘Father of Burlington’

  • Daphne

    Agree completely with Mr. Gillies assessment of Heritage Burlington. One of the questions the Committee asks when interviewing new candidates, is ‘are you in favour if property rights’? Apparently ‘yes’ is the correct answer. Heritage Burlington has members who are developers and property rights activists. The Committee does nothing to protect heritage properties in Burlington.

  • henri de beaujolais

    Thanks for the informative article Mark.

    I think the article should be renamed to “Who is James M. Clemens? And what is he doing to the history of Burlington?”

    To ignore and over turn an accredited professional’s recommendations is the pathetic history our ‘status quo’ governance in Burlington.

    Economic development plans, strategic plans, they all get shelved. It’s much easier to create a document and say ‘Look what we did! We hired the best and the brightest to create this really awesome report. But it will take work / money to implement it. The citizens don’t want us to spend money on this. So let’s not.”

    It requires leaders to have a vision for the community and put the plan into action. (Sorry, “status quo” is not a vision.)

    Council is full of speakers not doers… They way the electorate apparently likes them.

    Times move on. Our City will be bypassed by forward thinking communities.