History of Burlington
Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and conveniently located within an hour of Toronto & Niagara Falls, the beautiful city of Burlington awaits you. Enjoy winter by skating at the Waterfront or Bronte Creek Provincial Park. Ski or snowboard at Glen Eden. Explore Royal Botanical Gardens, with it's indoor mediterranean garden and nature exhibits. Hike on our nature trails, and take in scenic landscapes along the Niagara Escarpment. Experience our history in the Museums of Burlington, and take a tour of the many galleries at the Burlington Art Centre.
Burlington evolved from a small village into a bustling city that continues to grow. Aboriginal peoples were the first inhabitants of the area. The clear water and sandy shores of the bay inspired them to call the lake "Macassa", which means beautiful waters.
Early Explorers and European Settlers
One of the first European explorers to travel through the area was Robert LaSalle, who camped in the area now known as LaSalle Park in 1669. Years later, as the first European settlers began to arrive, they referred to Lake Macassa as Lake Geneva. Many of the settlers were United Empire Loyalists, North American settlers who remained loyal to the British monarchy, who emigrated from the United States.
The Lake Geneva area was once again renamed by the Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe. When he first set eyes on the bay, he was reminded of his hometown in England near Bridlington Bay. He altered Bridlington slightly and renamed the area Burlington Bay.
Chief Joseph Brant Settles the Area
It was overlooking the Burlington Bay that Chief Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), an aboriginal leader and United Empire Loyalist who helped the British fight in the American Revolutionary War, built his home. In 1784, King George III granted the famous Mohawk leader over 3,000 acres of land. With his wife Catherine and their children, he built his home just a few hundred yards south-west of the present day museum. After undergoing numerous ownership changes, the Brant estate eventually became the Brant House, a luxurious summer resort in the late 1870's.
As Brant sold off portions of his land, a small village began to form. He named the village Wellington Square, after the Duke of Wellington. In 1806 the future Nelson Township, in which Laura Secord was a landowner, was purchased from the Mississauga aboriginal peoples. In 1873 Wellington Square and Nelson Township petitioned the government to be incorporated into the village of Burlington.
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