It almost didn’t happen but Burlington citizens saved the Freeman station from destruction, The restoration can now begin.

August 24, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  The Friends of Freeman Station have confirmed that the historic train station will move from the Burlington Fire Department headquarters to the station’s new location the week of Sept. 9. The station, built in 1906 by the Grand Trunk Railway, will be moved from its perch beside the Fairview Street fire station to corporately-owned land a couple of hundred yards away.

While the distance is short – the move signified, finally, that the station is going to be restored and won’t get torn apart for kindling.

The Freeman station got moved around a number of times while the city figured out what it wanted to do with the thing. When city council failed to come up with a solution citizens led by Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster more here.

The move is the result of an agreement reached in 2012 between the city, the Friends of Freeman Station and manufacturer Ashland Inc.

  “Stations aren’t supposed to move. Trains come and go and stations are supposed to wait for trains to stop,” said James Smith, president of the Friends of Freeman Station. “It looked like time and neglect would be allowed to take their toll on Freeman Station but today we are announcing encouraging news. The train station is moving and will be restored. I encourage people from across Burlington to watch this dramatic and historic move.” 

 The volunteers of the Friends of Freeman Station have worked since 2011 to save, stabilize, repurpose and find a new home for this piece of Burlington’s history. They have enlisted local companies to help return Freeman Station to its former condition.

“I am impressed and heartened by the work of the dedicated volunteers, supporters and donors who have given so much to preserve and restore Freeman Station,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “This community effort ensures that Freeman Station has a role not only in Burlington’s past but also in its future.” 

 In May, McCulloch Building Movers installed steel beams under the structure. In June, Murison Restoration began preparing the station for the move. King Paving is getting the new site ready.

In a prepared statement Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said:  “I want to thank all the volunteers who generously gave their time to make this move a reality. Without your efforts, the Freeman Station would have been lost. With this move, restoration work can begin so future residents can enjoy the station and learn about Burlington’s rail history, from delivering produce from our farms, to sending our young people to serve our country in the Great Wars.” 

Steel beams are taken off a truck to be slid underneath the station so that it can be lifted off the ground, eased onto a flatbed and move the couple of hundred yards to its new home – where restoration will begin.

Typical fluff statement when the truth is that were it not for Meed Ward and Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster the station was a goner.  These two women refused to let the station get chopped up for fire wood and convinced their colleagues on Council to give the community some time.  Councillor Sharman’s behaviour during the debate was close to shameful.  And we didn’t see all that much in the way of leadership from the Mayor.


The deal gets done. City formally signs the agreement with the Friends of Freeman Station to have them take possession of the building and take on the task of restoring the structure.  Burlington came perilously close to losing the historic structure.

However, after a lot of discussion, loads of bureaucratic back and forth, the Freeman station is about to be taken for another ride.  It has experienced several in its more than 100 years of existence.

Early in September the trucks that move buildings will ease the flat-bed beneath the station and ease it down onto the truck and then move it all of 250 yards and settle it into a location where the major renovation will begin.  The structure weighs 45 tonnes. It is made of wood and shingles with a brick chimney. It is nearly 1,200 square feet.

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16 comments to It almost didn’t happen but Burlington citizens saved the Freeman station from destruction, The restoration can now begin.

  • Ken Woodruff

    It is so heartening to see our community succeed in preserving a part of our history that was nearly destroyed. Congratulations and thanks to all who made it happen!

  • Alyssa

    As a young adult having lived in the Oakville/Burlington area my entire life, I really appreciate projects like this actually being seen through and accomplished. I am a history major in university and it is places like this that offer us somewhere to visit and immerse ourselves in the history of our very own hometowns. With so many young people attached to their Iphones and laptops these days, I feel it’s especially important for us to have the opportunity to visit historical landmarks and step outside of our personal bubbles. Sincere thanks to all involved, great work!

  • Todd Alger

    I have been following this move and restoration project very closely and my hat is off to Mr. Smith and the group of volunteers that have worked extremely hard and have shown extreme patience to see this project thru. With all of the current development throughout the city it’s refreshing to see and element of history being preserved.
    Congratulations to all on a fantastic job !!

  • David Rasmusson

    Thanks to the Friends of Freeman Station an important part of Burlington’s past has been saved.

    Great Job!

  • David Smiley

    Congratulations on finding a new home for the Station. It will be interesting to see how current and future generations repurpose the fine old building.

  • Mia

    Great to see this project in motion and to see part of Burlington’s history revived. I bet most Burlingtonians aren’t familiar with Freeman Station. Hopefully the ongoing efforts of this wonderful group will turn this part of Burlington’s history into a well known place for knowledge and nostalgia.
    Hopeful the permanent placing of the station is in a prominent area of the city.
    Congratulations and great job!

  • Kelly D

    Congratulations to all who worked tirelessly to preserve this important piece of Burlingtons history. Although some might say its just some old wood, bricks and shingles, I like to think our future generations will learn more from its preservation than its use for kindling.
    Great job!!

  • Eric Cunningham

    Hearty congratulations to you, your committee and to Blair, Mary Ann, and Mayor Rick for ensuring that the Freeman Station is going to be available for public use for future generations.

    I remember the station from the 60’s when I would take the train back to Western. The building was a meeting place for decades.

    Best to all involved.
    Eric Cunningham

  • It’s great that this special moment will be happening. As I mentioned many times my grandfather George McMillan was the station master for approx. 25 years. I used to ride my bike to the station to visit him after school a few times each week and spend some really quality time with him…I attended a few meetings with the group at the beginning but had other commitments but am so happy to see this happen. If you are interested I remember what the inside was like and where things were placed if it would help…thanks so much Robin

  • Bob Van de Vrande

    How wonderful that people care about our built history and are willing to step forward and do the hard work necessary to preserve it.

  • Ray Rivers

    If preserving history and our culture is not part of what we should expect from the City – than it is a pretty poor place we have chosen to call home. Thanks to those who have made the effort and put a process into play to successfully save this wonderful relic – our children’s children will thank you all.

  • Dorothy Birkes

    I maybe fresh about all logistics however congradulations to all who willing devoted time and patience to save a historical building and to all who assisted in locating a new home for future generations to enjoy!

  • Alan Harrington

    Thank you to all the people who care enough to donate funds and time to preserve Burlington’s heritage and make this a wonderful place to live.

    I’m looking forward to the day the Station is completed and becomes part of our city’s charm.

  • Rick King

    A responsive and accountable City staff spending time on a project that the citizenry support! What next? Democracy in the streets?

  • Mike

    It is good to see such positive efforts going forward to preserve our architectural history. Far too often in the past few decades we have destroyed many of the buildings; symbols of our communities past.

    Good work to everyone involved.

  • Penny Hersh

    Interesting that these 2 councillors put time, effort and Molinaro development dollars into a project that a previous council voted down.

    I personally find it a unacceptable that any City Staff time, or monetary benefits be given to this project. The move and restoration of the building should come directly from the public who feel strongly about preserving it.