Burlington (2006 population 164,415) is a city located in Southern Ontario at the western end of Lake Ontario, lying between the north shore of Lake Ontario and the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment. Politically, the city is part of Halton Region. Physically, Burlington is part of the Greater Toronto Area, and rests as the only member of the Halton Regional Municipality that is part of the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area. Its geographic position puts it roughly in the centre of the Golden Horseshoe region, a dynamic location with many attractions.
While it contains both some small industrial areas and high-tech companies, Burlington is primarily a bedroom suburb of both Toronto and Hamilton. Typical of much suburban growth in southern Ontario in the last half of the twentieth century, the large land spaces available as fully detached single-family housing – serviced primarily by big-box stores, large shopping malls and smaller high-end boutiques and eateries – has encouraged the use of automobiles to get from place to place within the city. Burlington bears many similarities to the neighboring town of Oakville, including a high per capita income amongst its residents and a thriving downtown heritage area.
Before pioneer settlement in the 19th century, the area was covered by the primeval forest that stretched between the provincial capital of York and the town of Hamilton, and was home to various First Nations peoples. In 1792, John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, named the western end of Lake Ontario “Burlington Bay” after the town of Bridlington in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England,. By the time land beside the bay was deeded to Chief Joseph Brant at the turn of the nineteenth 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. The sandy, well-drained soil and amenable climate encouraged farming, and the area rapidly became the bread-basket of the region, known for wheat production. Produce from the farms was shipped out via the bustling docks of the lakeside villages of Port Nelson and Wellington Square, as well as Brown’s Wharf in the nearby village of Port Flamborough (which was to become Aldershot). Lumber taken from the surrounding forests also competed for space on the busy docks. However, 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 railways to ship goods marked the end of the commercial wharves.