Prior to Euro-Canadian settlement on the site that became the City of Burlington, the lands of Halton County were inhabited by Anishnaabe (Ojibway) known as the Mississaugas. The Mississaugas’ traditional territory extended westerly and easterly from Burlington, encompassing what is now the City of Toronto. At that time, Burlington Bay was known by the Mississauga name, Macassa. Shortly after the arrival of Euro-Canadian settlers to the Township of Nelson, Burlington Bay was known as Lake Geneva.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, many United Empire Loyalists were given land in the area in return for their loyalty to the Crown. Such was the case for Captain Joseph Brant, a prominent Mohawk and Loyalist, who was granted land in Halton County for his service. Brant selected his desired location at the Head of Lake Ontario.
The Brant Tract, commonly referred to as Brant’s Block, was patented to Joseph Brant in February of 1798. At that time, the Block was bounded by the Township of Flamborough to the west and Lake Ontario to the south. The northern extent of Brant’s Block was just south of the northern boundary of the First Concession South of Dundas Street and the eastern boundary extended easterly into Lot 18. Of Brant’s original Patent, 50 acres each was set aside for his wife and eight children.
In 1801 construction began on Joseph Brant’s house on the north shore of Burlington Bay (now known as Hamilton Harbour), fronting Brant’s Pond. Unfortunately for Brant, the home was only finished a few short years before his death in 1807. Contradictions abound regarding the location of Brant's burial. It had been suggested that Brant was buried at St. Luke's Church in Burlington, though this was later proven untrue as the church was built 30 years after his death (Reynolds 1984). Joseph and his son John Brant’s remains were removed from Burlington in 1850 to their final resting place beside Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks – St. Paul’s – in the City of Brantford (HRMCM 2014).
Prior to Brant’s death, parcels of land within Brant’s Block were sold to various Township of Nelson pioneers. Some early settlers to Brant's Block were: the Ghents, the Davises, the Mordens, the Bateses, the Kernses and the Gages. After Brant’s death James Gage purchased 338.5 acres of land within Brant’s Block from the executors of his estate, Catherine Brant and Augustus Jones (Walker and Miles 1877:64). An 1810 survey by Gage of his purchased lands laid out the basis for a townsite that would be known as Wellington Square. With the establishment of Wellington Square, and later the City of Burlington, the Brant's Block lands were slowly taken up with new development.
Brant's home was rebuilt by 1942 to serve as the Joseph Brant Museum. During the 1930s timbers and logs from the original Brant home were retained and reused in the reconstruction. A testament to one of the City's earliest founders, the museum was moved in 1994 to its present location to accommodate the requirements of the growing Joseph Brant Hospital. Brant's Pond was filled in to allow for the expansion of the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Burlington Skyway. Additionally, much of the lands that the Joseph Brant Hospital comprise are situated on reclaimed land on the infilled pond.
Burlington today retains many hints to the former Brant's Block at Burlington Bay. Brant, Ghent and Caroline Streets are but a few streets that speak to the early history of Brant's Block. The landscape has changed dramatically with the infill of Brant's Pond and the growth of the City of Burlington, though clues to the early history of Brant's Block remain.
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Below is a listing of properties that are located within the original boundaries of Brant's Block. While the designated properties had not yet been built during Brant's tenure, but rather after various subdivisions, they offer an interesting look at the development and sprawl of the Block as whole.
2040 Emerald Crescent "The Betty Taylor House" - Built in 1938 on former Brant's Block lands, the Betty Taylor House was constructed for Taylor following her retirement from a career as an Olympian and hurdles competitor. The house is one of two in Burlington constructed in the Art Deco Style and is situated in the Hart Survey, registered in 1922.
1222 Richmond Road - Built in 1874 for Joseph Collinson, this vernacular-style brick farmhouse was later owned by Vickers Henry Peart followed by a member of the Babcock family. The house is situated on lands that were part of the 1869 Brant's Block subdivision by James McMurray.
1442 Ontario Street - Built in 1888 as the parsonage for the First Baptist Church of Burlington by James Bent, it is representative of the Picturesque/Carpenter Gothic style of architecture. It is part of the James Bent streetscape on Ontario Street.
1457 Ontario Street "Miller-Bush House" - Built in 1875 for Robert Miller, former Reeve of the Township of Nelson and later a Collector of Customs for the port of Wellington Square, it is noted to be one of the oldest buildings constructed by George Blair. The home was later owned by the Bush family, a prominent men's wear clothier.
455 Nelson Avenue "The Waldie-McCoy-Evans House” - Built in 1886 for George Chisolm. One of the early summer cottages that was built in Burlington’s early ‘summer resort’ area of Old Burlington. The house is a typical one-storey and a half vernacular building with a three bay front elevation and a centre gable above an arched window. The house fits well with the other homes on the historic Nelson Avenue.
534 Burlington Avenue "Skelton-Giddings House" - Built circa 1913 for Frederick Skelton in the style similar to Lakehurst Villa, it was constructed of Queenston block limestone that would have been shipped to the area from Kingston. Later owned by Doris Giddings of the Giddings Furriers family of Hamilton.