Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up and see the truly wild and wacky side of the great city of Burlington. Prepare to be amazed as we dazzle you with the truly obscure and mind-bogglingly crazy things happening in this mysterious city we all think we know and love.
Ok, so that introduction is probably a touch over the top. You’re probably never going to find Burlington on featured in a ‘Believe It or Not’ special, but there are some exciting things about our hometown that you may not know about, and may even find hard to believe!
This list is some of the lesser know little things we love about this city. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list, so let us know if we missed your particular favourite.
Number 1: The First ever Peaches grown in Canada, were in Burlington
While we’re not Georgia and don’t have the noble peach festooning our licence plates, it is true that the first ever peach grown in Canada was right here in our city. To be more specific, the Grindstone Creek watershed in the city’s south-west end. In the early days, farming is what Burlington was all about. In fact, in the early twentieth-century agriculture was so important here, that we were declared the Garden of Canada.
Number 2: We close a road every year for a Salamander crossing
The Jefferson Salamander went from “threatened” to “endangered” on the Species at Risk in Ontario List in 2011. Since there are a good number of these amphibians that call Burlington home, the City knew it had to help our slippery little friends. It seems we placed King Road right between them and their preferred breeding ground, meaning every year the Jefferson has to make the dangerous street crossing to ensure the survival of the species. Since 2012, the City has officially closed King Road from the base of the Niagara Escarpment to Mountain Brow Road for about three weeks, starting around the first weekend in March to ensure a safe crossing for the little guys.
Number 3: We once had the largest resort in Canada
That’s right, the Brant Inn right on the water’s edge, in what is now part of Spencer Smith Park, used to be the largest vacation resort in the country. The hotel was opened on the site of Joseph Brant’s old homestead in 1900 and was home to a Hotel, country club, bowling alley, hospital, restaurant, beauty salon, barbershop, concert hall, and dance hall. In 1917, during the Great War, the Canadian Government turned the hotel into a military hospital. However, by the thirties, it had a grand relaunch as the preeminent music venue for Southern Ontario and up State New York. Known for strict dress codes, lavish parties, and extravagant cover charges, this was the place to be seen, and people came from all over to do just that. That is before the onset of rock and roll in the sixties changed the music scene drastically, and the people stopped coming. The Burlington Inn’s popularity never really recovered, and it was demolished in 1969.
Number 4: Professor X and the team were right at home in our City
The first of the hugely successful X-Men films was primarily shot in and around the GTA, and being the filmmaker’s dream that it is, you may recognize parts of Burlington showing up as you watch. Spencer Smith Park, one of our most favourite places, stands in for New York’s Liberty Island. Of course, you will also notice parts of Hamilton, Ajax, Oshawa, and Toronto as you watch. Might be time to go back and screen that one again.
Number 5: We have our own Magnetic Hill
While not as popular as the one out in New Brunswick, Burlington residents can also watch in amazement as their cars, left in neutral, roll uphill. And, according to a Hamilton Spectator investigation in the 1980s, Burlington’s magnetic hill may actually be more powerful than the one in Moncton. The hill is located on King Road, about a mile up from the north service road, just in case you’re dying to get over there and give it a whirl.
Number 6: Burlington was originally called Burlington Bay
Named by the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe in 1792, the western area by Lake Ontario was called Burlington Bay before it expanded beyond the water’s edge. The name was derived from the town of Bridlington in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, a place that is now considerably smaller than our city whose name it inspired.
Number 7: Burlington has more species of Lilacs than almost anywhere else in the world
The collection, housed at the Katie Osborne Lilac Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens, displays over 745 plants meaning this Lilac collection is one of the most diverse you’ll come across anywhere on the planet. Which is to say, if you haven’t explored the Royal Botanical Gardens, lately or ever, what are you waiting for!?
Number 8: Barack Obama took his kids to Spenser Smith Park while visiting his sister in 2008
Of course, Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng is not a regular Burlington resident. She is, however, married to Burlington native Konrad Ng. Ng mentioned to his brother-in-law, the former President that it was policies enacted by Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s that allowed his parents to emigrate to Canada and put down roots in Burlington, which Obama mentioned in his statement to the press on his visit north to meet current Prime Minister Trudeau.
Number 9: Joseph Brant was a Mohawk military and political leader who knew George Washington
There isn’t enough room to go into just how important a person Joseph Brant (or Thayendanegea) was in the history of Canada, the United States, and the revolutionary war that saw America break off from Great Britain. However, his final home and the place where he passed away was at the head of Lake Ontario in what was already commonly known as Burlington. This is of course why we have the Joseph Brant Hospital and the neighbourhood of Tyandaga. Joseph Brant is also the namesake of Brantford, Ontario and honoured with plaques and statues all over the region.
Number 10: We have more than 580 hectares of green space
The more we learn about urban life, the more we hear about just how important access to green space is for human well being. In Burlington, we have a lot of it. There are now 115 parks across our City, giving all our residents a space to get in touch with nature or simply get out of the house and go for a walk. When you add in trails, bike paths, and gardens, this is a truly green city.
Number 11: We do festivals that rival those in any major city
You may have heard of the Sound of Music Festival held in mid-June often on Father’s day weekend, or the Rib Fest held on Labour Day weekend, both in Spencer Smith Park. But did you know that they are both the largest of their kind, free-to-attend festivals, in the country? The Sound of Music Festival set up as a Non-Profit Corporation hosts more than 200,000 people, and the Rotary club operated Ribfest brings more than 19 award-winning ribbers from all over North America to feed close to 200,000 people on the water’s edge. Not to mention just how many other festivals are put on all across this city every year.
Number 12: Robert Bateman taught high school here
That’s right, the renowned wildlife painter and naturalist, was once an art and geography teacher at both Nelson and Lord Elgin High Schools. That is until the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington, noticed his work and his career, away from the classroom, took off.
Number 13: Two of Canada’s best-known actors went to high school in Burlington
While not born here, comedian/actor Jim Carrey attended Aldershot High School, and actor Ryan Gosling went to Lester B. Pearson High School. It’s almost like there is something special about spending at least part of your formative years in this city.