The area, which was covered by the primeval forest that stretched between the provincial capital of York and the town of Hamilton, was home to various First Nations peoples. The first permanent settlements in Burlington were made beginning in the 1780s by United Empire Loyalists, who sought escape from prejudice and political pressure in the United States.
In 1792, John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, named the western end of Lake Ontario Burlington Bay. By the time land beside the bay was deeded to Captain Joseph at the turn of the 19th century, the name Burlington was already in common use.
With the completion of the local survey after the War of 1812, the land was opened for settlement. Early farmers prospered in the area because of the fertile soil and moderate temperatures and the lumber business boomed. In the latter half of the 19th century, increased wheat production from Western Canada convinced local farmers to switch to fruit and vegetable production.
In 1874, Wellington Square and Port Nelson were incorporated into the Village of Burlington. However, the arrival of large steamships on the Great Lakes made the small docks of the local ports obsolete and the increased use of railway to ship goods marked the end of the commercial wharves.
In the 1800s, the area witnessed an influx of immigrants, mainly from Scotland, Ireland, and England, but it also welcomed escaped slaves from the United States arriving on the Underground Railroad.
Farming still thrived and by 1906 the town boasted its own newspaper as well as a town library and a local rail line that connected Burlington to Hamilton. In 1915, Burlington was incorporated into a town.
As more settlers arrived and cleared the land, cash crops replaced subsistence farming. Gradually, mixed farming and market gardens became the dominant form of agriculture, and in the early 20th century the area was declared the Garden of Canada. The first peaches grown in Canada were cultivated in the Grindstone Creek watershed, which is located in the southwest part of the city. The farming tradition has passed down through the generations. Today, over 40 per cent of the Grindstone Creek watershed is still devoted to farms, orchards and nurseries.
Following the Second World War, cheap electricity from nearby Niagara Falls and better transportation access due to the new (1939) Queen Elizabeth encouraged both light industry and families to move to Burlington. The population skyrocketed as new homes were built, encouraging developers to build even more new homes.
On January 1, 1958, Burlington officially annexed most of the Township of Nelson, as well as Aldershot. By 1967, the last cash crop farm within the city had been replaced by the Burlington Mall.
In 1974, Burlington was incorporated as a city. Continued high rates of growth are forecast as farmland north of Dundas Street and south of Highway 407 is developed into more suburban housing.
The city has historically been a destination with a high quality of life and in 2011 was named by MoneySense magazine as the 2nd best city in Canada in which to live. Lakeshore Road along Burlington’s waterfront is chock-a-block with stately historic homes on large properties overlooking Lake Ontario. As the city continues to grow, there are many new housing developments and condos going up.
To see a list of lowrise homes for sale, go here.
For a list of highrise offerings, go here.
Burlington is home to the award-winning Royal Botanical Gardens, which has the world’s largest lilac collection. It features over 2,700 acres of gardens and nature sanctuaries, including four outdoor display gardens, the Mediterranean Garden under glass, three on-site restaurants, the Gardens’ Gift Shop, and festivals.
The Art Gallery of Burlington houses the largest collection of Canadian ceramics. The gallery’s exhibition spaces, which feature new exhibitions every eight to 10 weeks, are fully accessible and are free of charge to visitors.
The Joseph Brant Museum has ongoing exhibits on the history of Burlington, Captain Joseph Brant and the Eileen Collard Costume Collection, as well as featuring a visible storage gallery.
Ireland House at Oakridge Farm is a history museum depicting family life from the 1850s to the 1920s.
The Performing Arts Centre is a 750-seat facility that hosts a number of performances of varying styles and offers many children’s activities.
In Spencer Smith Park, the sculpture “Royal Canadian Naval Association Naval Memorial (1995)” by Andre Gauthier is a cast bronze statue of a WWII Canadian sailor in the position of attention saluting his lost shipmates. A monument commemorating the Korean War was erected in the summer of 2014 to mark the 61st anniversary of the armistice to end the war.
The Brant Street Pier, opened in 2013, is a destination attraction at the Waterfront at Downtown Burlington. The pier extends 137 metres over lake Ontario and provides views of Burlington’s shoreline.
Parks & Rec
If you are an active hiker, this is the area for you. The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, runs 890 kilometres along the Escarpment from Tobermory in the north to Niagara in the south. The section of the trail from Milton to Grimsby runs along the ancient shoreline of Lake Iroquois.
Several conservation areas feature year-round activities. Mount Nemo Conservation Area has paths that lead to the Bruce Trail and rock climbing areas. Bronte Creek Provincial Park features a campground and recreational activities and event throughout the year.
The Bruce Trail also runs through Kerncliff Park and at many points runs along the edge of cliffs, providing a clear view of Burlington, the Burlington Skyway Bridge, Hamilton and Oakville.
Burlington has 115 parks with 580 hectares of parkland in the city. On the shore of Lake Ontario, Spencer Smith Park has been renovated with an observatory, outdoors pond, water jet play area and restaurant.
Public elementary and secondary schools are part of the Halton District School Board and the Catholic elementary and secondary schools are part of the Halton Catholic District School Board. French public elementary and secondary schools are part of the Conseil scolaire Viamonde and French Catholic schools are part of the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud. Several private schools are also available in the city. Burlington is home to the McMaster University DeGroote School of Business, Ron Joyce Centre, which offers MBA and executive management programs. Burlington has a campus of Trillium College.
Burlington has a lovely downtown with a large selection of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and salons. The Mapleview Centre and Burlington Mall are the destination shopping centres and Appleby Mall has recently been renovated as an outdoor box store centre.
Transit is a clear option. Burlington Transit connects with Hamilton and the city has several GO Transit stations, including Aldershot, Appleyby and Burlington. There are also GO bus connections at the 407 Carpool Lot. The area is served well by highways, including the QEW and Highways 403, 6, 8 and 20, making commutes into the Niagara Region or the GTA simple.