The Come Back Tour – The Woodies will be at Emma’s Back Porch during SOM kick off.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  May 22. 2013.  Burlington native Bill Wood is bringing his band, The Woodies back Home to perform at Emma’s Back Porch on Thursday, June 13 at 9 PM. An ex Nelson High School Alumni  – Bill Wood who is best known as the front man for Canadian Pop stars Eye Eye,  had a slew of hits in the 80’s including “Out on a Limb”, “X-Ray Eyes” and “Endless Night”.

The Woodies on a Come Back Tour – Emmas June 13

Some of the bands you may remember Wood being in include The Oh No’s where Woodie was band mate for several years with fellow Burlington boy Mychael Danna. Today Danna is a very successful  Academy Award-winning film composer, winning the Best Original Score for “Life of Pi.”

Bill Wood, modestly corrects the public record and explains that he was nominated for single of the year. “I believe Glass Tiger took it home. The album was nominated twice, once for single of the year, and one for producer [Terry Brown] , but neither brought home the gold”, adds Wood.   

Other Burlington bands Wood was a member included Darwin, Shadowfax, Skyballoon and Popeye.

The stairs went in in 1992 when new management took over the rental of the building. Today what was once the “hot spot” in Burlington is now a quieter, more sedate location for brunches and special events. The picture above the clock is the restaurant in its prime.

Craig Kowalchuk is opening up what many knew as the Tree Top part of Emma’s Back Porch for the event.

For those who are getting close to collecting pension cheques the Tree Top will evoke fond memories and smiles of a time when Burlington didn’t have a night life. “It was The Brant Inn and the Tree Top”, that was it.

Back in the days when it was a more colourful establishment – these stairs were THE entrance to the Tree Top – getting up was a bit of a grunt. There are those who tumbled down.

Kowalchuk  has been the sole owner of Emma’s which is a very popular locale with a great deck on the lake side.  Tough to get a seat much of the time.

Inside the furniture is what Kowalchuk calls “Canadian Country Cabin” which is another way of saying there was no other place to put that old furniture.

But if you look at many of the tables you will see initials carved into the surface.  “A lot of broken hearts  can be seen in those carvings” said one patron who was talking to Kowalchuk about the sanding and re-surfacing he wanted to do to the table tops.  “No, assured Kowalchuk, we are not sanding those carvings away, we are just taking off some of the grime and then putting a better surface on them.”

Kowalchuk has run Emma’ since 1992 when he installed the grand stairway with the magnificent clock on the west side.  Before that was put in the way to the top floor Tree Top was up a skinny, steep stairway.  It was a grind to get up and those stairs saw more than one person tumble all the way to the bottom – with a couple of bounces.

Kowalchuk brings a background in the setting up of franchise operations for one of the better operations in the country.  He understands the fundamentals and runs a pretty tight ship.  He is also president of the Burlington Restaurant Association and has some concerns about the city’s banner policy.

Emmas is a little more sedate these days.  Quieter, more of a family place for many.

But it wasn’t always that way.  We lived in the place and we have any number of ways to prove we were legal.  “We Lived at the Treetop” Bill Wood said enthusiastically.

The Woodies Come Back Tour has a cover charge – a modest $10  If the crowd wandering down around the pier is small that might be because everyone is at Emmas listening to a group that was part of a very colourful past.

George and Emma Byrens, who purchased the building in 1919. It was once the location of the jumpingest joint in town. There was the Tree Top and the Brant Inn and that was it. Now it is a quieter, more sedate location – Mother’s Day Brunches and special occasions.

The building is believed to have been the home of the Kern’s family and the place Lt. Col, William C. Kerns was born in.  Kerns was a partner in Waldies, a store located on John Street and eventually became the sole owner.

There was a fire in the top floor of the building at one point and that may have been what resulted in the location becoming a restaurant.

George and Emma Byrens, who purchased the building in 1919 had the place up to 1952. That’s where the name Emmas Back Porch came from.

Somewhere the name Estaminet got put into play – why that name isn’t all that clear.  Estaminet is French for a small bistro or café.

The Cooper family then bought the place and in the early 60’s they created the Tree Top lounge. At one point they had rented the place to a group from St. Catharines but that didn’t work out so they took it back.

It’s not a street that gets used all that much. the properties to the left lost much of their value when the Conservation Authority revised the set back required for properties fronting on the lake. Now there really isn’t anything of any height that can be built on those lots. The properties to the right have significant potential if someone can assemble enough of the land and then convince the city to contribute the street and come up with [piece of land big enough for a decent development that gives the public access to the water. The Official Plan Review team will be hiring a consultant to come up with some ideas.

Along the way the property was sold to Mayrose Tyco, the group that is building the Bridgewater condo complex a couple of hundred yards west on Lakeshore Road.  Mayrose also owns the parking lot across the street

No one knows yet how many people are going to show up the 13th to tell the full story.  We may have to promise not to identify anyone personally

 An evening at the Tree Top to get yourself started on the Sound of Music festivities sounds like an interesting way to spend a weekend.

If you go this far – you will have spotted all kinds of mistakes as to who owned the place when and what it was called.  Talk to three people and you will get four stories.  Help get the story right – leave a comment and we will update this piece on a part of Burlington’s rich colourfull history.


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2 comments to The Come Back Tour – The Woodies will be at Emma’s Back Porch during SOM kick off.

  • Kim Lalonde

    My husband was the drummer alongside Bill ,Mark Mychael, and Tim, we spent so much time at the Treetop that we got married there !!This is going to be awesome .

  • Jennifer

    FYI – “Byrens” is the spelling of the last name of George and Emma Byrens, who purchased the building in 1919.
    I had asked my Dad who is a born & raised Burlington.