With the structure of the Freeman Station saved - city council now needs to ensure the funds to complete the restoration are available.

Who Knew 100x100 2015By Mark Gillies

February 13, 2015


Part 3 of a 3 part feature.

Cherish what few historical buildings are still left with us

Burlington does have other very significant historical buildings, all great contributors to our local heritage. St Luke’s Anglican Church and other old local churches are so important to the community. They tell us so much about our spiritual past. Some churches have historic cemeteries surrounding the grounds. On Brant Street, we still have the Hotel Raymond, now a restaurant, and the Queen’s Hotel, with a different name, is a pub.

The Ireland House Museum on Guelph Line, is a real treasure and a beautiful link to our past, telling us about rural life during the mid 1800s. The Joseph Brant Museum, a re-creation of Joseph Brant’s home, plays a valuable role in providing visitors with information on life in the early 1800s. Burlington is fortunate to have historical houses. Most are privately owned. Some have been officially recognized as historical, some have yet to be recognized, while others, once recognized historical, have recently been removed by the City of Burlington, making them susceptible to demolition.

Pic 9 Hotel Raymond & Queen's Hotel

The two historic buildings on Brant Street have somehow survived for over 125 years. The Hotel Raymond sign is still showing and can be seen from the second floor. The Queen’s Hotel is now a pub with a different name. The interior walls have some old pictures of what the building was like at the turn of the 20th century. These are nice touches to help preserve our local heritage.

The McNichol Estate, also historical, located on land once owned by Laura Secord has been saved by the City. Outside of these, we don’t seem to have much else in historical properties. The rest have been demolished by homeowners, developers, or local and provincial governments.

Pic 12 Burlington Junction 1906

This beautiful painting by renowned heritage artist William Biddle depicts the idyllic life at the historic Freeman Station in 1906.

The Freeman Station symbolizes Burlington in transition
These are the main reasons why I believe the Freeman Station is Burlington’s most historical building. There are literally thousands of untold stories about the Freeman Station from individuals all across Burlington, stories that should now be made public. The Freeman Station has served more people, in so many different ways, over a very long period of time. The Freeman Station at 109 years of age, has always been there for us. This is the very best piece of local heritage symbolizing Burlington in transition from an agricultural community right up to this beautiful city in 2015. The Freeman Station saw it all.

Strong civic leadership is the answer to preserving our heritage
Here‘s what I would like to see. Will this present City Council really get their heritage preservation act together, show the residents of Burlington some unified leadership, stop their petty squabbling, get behind the restoration of the Freeman Station, Burlington’s most historic building, and finally get it completed? The City of Burlington owns the building, yet they have demonstrated a willingness to shirk their basic responsibilities and let volunteers do all the work on their behalf, after our City Council was unable to come to any agreement on what to do with Burlington’s most important piece of history.

Station on a float

The Freeman Station was this close to being carted out of town and used for kindling somewhere else. It was the Friends of Freeman Station that rallied and saved the building with the help of Councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster

As a taxpayer, you and I should be outraged at our City Council, and their inability to properly recognize true historical buildings. We elected these people to make the right decisions, and as taxpayers, we pay them to do this. If it wasn’t for the Friends of Freeman Station, plus many local concerned citizens and businesses stepping in to save this magnificent building, our historic train station would not be with us today. The Freeman Station was that close to being added to the ever growing demolition list created by the City of Burlington and endorsed by your City Council.

My thoughts on heritage
Heritage is a gift; it is your inheritance from previous generations.
Heritage is all about who they were, and how they lived.
The concept is no different than a monetary inheritance. We have the choice to squander it away, or we can be responsible and do something that will benefit our present and future generations.

Heritage will help us understand who we are.
Heritage is a combination of genes, decisions, and environment, over time.
Heritage cannot be stolen or taken from you, only lost or forgotten through our choices of ignorance, neglect or disuse.
Heritage is your history.
You do not get a second chance at the past.

In my next column  find out why  a Burlington Member of Parliament was personally invited to travel with President Abraham Lincoln by train from the White House in Washington, DC, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the American President delivered his famous “Gettysburg Address”.

Mark Gillies is a lifelong resident of Burlington, who grew up in Aldershot and developed as a local historian, researcher, master genealogist and writer who has a passionate interest and extensive knowledge of the many early pioneer families.  Mark will write a regular column about colourful local history introducing Burlingtonians to the people that made this city what it is today.

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6 comments to With the structure of the Freeman Station saved – city council now needs to ensure the funds to complete the restoration are available.

  • Mark Gillies

    Hello everyone,

    If we estimate the cost of the Freeman Station restoration at about $250,000, an amount that should work to complete the job; then if we estimate the number of Burlington households at 70,000; then we are looking at approximately each household contributing about one cent/day for one year. That’s $3.65 x 70,000 households = $255,500.00. In one of the wealthiest cities in Canada, I think this is affordable.

  • tenni

    As far as my tax money going to restore Freeman Station, I am unclear. Basic gut reaction is yes. I would like my tax money going to restore this building. I did a quick search on heritage buildings and could not locate any. They are mentioned that they exist. Grants to help homeowners maintain these buildings exist. I understand that there are a couple of buildings on Brant Street that have historical significance but some have been altered significantly? The Queens Head is one. The building on Brant that is a flower shop is suppose to be one. Certainly, the white church on Ontario must be one? I understand that two buildings are historical in the Village Square but most are reproductions. I guess owners of heritage buildings do not want people gawking?

  • Barbara

    Wonderful article Mark. The historic ‘Freeman Station’ has a wonderful story to tell to our children and their children about their heritage. If we don’t know where we came from we can’t truly know where we are going. I fully support my tax dollars being spent on heritage conservation/preservation including such outstanding examples as Freeman Station. Burlington has an amazing group of volunteers who are working hard to raise the necessary funds as well as putting their own blood and sweat into this so that all residents of Burlington can benefit from the knowledge of their own history.

  • tenni

    “Heritage is a combination of genes, decisions, and environment, over time.”

    This is rather an interesting quote and refers to genes. What do you mean?

    In a contemporary society the genes that a person has have nothing to do with geographic area that you reside. As the Burlington community our individual ethnic background may have influenced Burlington’s heritage. I recently found a 2006 census that noted that Burlington largest ethnic group listed was Scottish followed by English. Much farther down was Asian and followed by Blacks. Therefore the genetics of Burlington are basically caucasian.

    Other Burlington citizens in the 2006 census referred to the mother tongues was English for the majority or French. Polish was 8% and Spanish(8%). Italian (7%), German(6.6%), Panjabi (6%) were the following languges.

    Who were the people of Polish etc. background and what was their contribution to Burlington’s heritage?

  • penny Hersh

    I do not want my taxpayer dollars spent on restoring Freeman Station. This needs to fall to those people who feel they want to put their own time and money into this project. The previous council, with input from residents, decided not to use taxpayer dollars to preserve this structure.

    I, personally would like to see monies spent to fix our crumbling infrastructure. Something that would benefit all the residents of Burlington

  • Rob

    I agree with Mark’s thinking that we need to preserve our heritage.

    In our lifetime, most of us aspire to create a legacy; one that leaves lasting memories that will be passed down to our children, families and community. A legacy is about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future. Leaving a legacy helps complete the circle of life.

    In Burlington, families such as Brant, Ireland and the Smith’s have a left a distinct mark that can be seen on buildings, streets, parks and businesses. But, as our City grows and time passes, the challenge will be to ensure that we remember our roots and the proud legacy of our founding members.

    Joseph Brant Museum and Ireland House provide an important link between the community and its heritage. We need to tell the story of those individuals and families that have laid the foundation for a better Burlington.

    We need to prosent our stories, traditions, memories, hopes and dreams, and preserve them for future generations.