When Benjamin Eager purchased a part of Joseph Brant’s farm in the late 1860s, he cleared the swampy land and offered up “villa lots” for sale. Initially he could not find buyers for the sandy soil. He offered the whole length of the road to one farmer for $200.00 and was rejected (Machan 1997). Shortly after, settlers realized the value of the soil for growing fruit. Robert Lindley was the first purchaser of the villa lots. He purchased 70 acres in 1873 along “Sand Road”, which was named Maple Avenue shortly thereafter (Turcotte 1989). In her book entitled, The Garden of Canada, Martha Craig writes,
“bush and pine stumps…have now disappeared and are replaced with luxuriant orchards, hedges, lawns and beautiful homes, which testify of the remarkable suitability of the soil for the purpose to which it is put. Good spring water is abundant. The general farm improvements are of an exceptionally high order” (Craig 1923:4).
In addition to the Lindley family, other prominent families moved to the area to take advantage of the fertile soil. Edwin Thorpe purchased a farm on Maple Avenue in 1877 and grew cherries, pears, melons and tomatoes. It is said that Edwin once had to use his shotgun to chase groups of children who were trying to steal his fruit (Turcotte 1989).
Maple Avenue enjoyed great success for many years as one of Canada’s greatest fruit bearing streets. As the years passed, there was pressure from Council to develop the land. Murray Fisher writes,
“It is doubtful if there is any measured mile of soil in Canada more productive than Maple Avenue… It is with great regret … that this great natural asset of our country … should be lost forever to the unquenchable desire to cover choice land with cement and macadam. Within a few miles there is land that is replaceable but that fact has been ignored in the scramble for dollars” (BHS 2004).
Many of the Maple Avenue farms have been demolished or moved. Today the street consists of new modern homes. Although the farms on Maple Avenue no longer grow fruit, the importance of the street cannot be underestimated. Not only did fruit growing help establish a strong economic foundation for the towns and villages of the area, it is one of the reasons Burlington is referred to as “The Garden of Canada”.
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562/564 Maple Avenue “The Robert Lindley House” - A one-and-a-half-storey end-gabled brick structure. The centre gable has intricate gingerbread bargeboard and an arched window with teardrop tracery. The front entrance has a transom with a segmental arched head and sidelights. The house is a landmark on Maple Avenue as a link to the street’s agricultural past.
1006 Plains Road East “Bellview House” – This house was originally a one-and-a-half storey front-gabled frame structure with a centre gable on the east side, above an arched window. The house was built for William Bell in 1873 on Maple Avenue. William Bell was a fruit grower who specialized in strawberries.
1222 Richmond Road “Collinson-Babcock House” – This house is believed to have been constructed in 1874 following the sale of land by Benjamin Eager to Collinson. The property was used for agriculture and market gardens during the Collison and Babcock family ownerships. During the post-war housing boom, farmlands were subdivided and the Collinson-Babcock House was surrounded by newly constructed homes. It was around this time that the home was reoriented from Maple Avenue to front Richmond Road.