Burlington, Ontario, incorporated as a city in 1974, population 183,314 (2016 census), 175,779 (2011 census). The city of Burlington is located at the head of Lake Ontario, 50 km west of Toronto. Burlington was first incorporated in 1873 as a village, encompassing the earlier settlements of Port Nelson and Wellington Square. It became a town in 1914. In 1958, Burlington, Nelson Township and the Aldershot area of East Flamborough were amalgamated to form one municipality (Burlington). Burlington is the home of the world-renowned Royal Botanical Gardens.


Burlington's first and most distinguished settler was Thayendanegea, or Joseph Brant, a Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) chief and Loyalist. In 1798, Thayendanegea received a grant of 3,450 acres (almost 1,400 ha) on Burlington Bay.


In the 19th century the local economy was built on water-borne commerce. Wheat, lumber and quarried rock were shipped through Port Nelson, Wellington Square and Port Flamboro (later Aldershot, now part of Burlington). Commerce was stimulated further by the arrival of the railway in 1854. However, economic growth stalled as timber reserves depleted and as larger steamships bypassed local wharves for the ports of Hamilton and Toronto. Between the 1890s and the Second World War a shift in local agriculture to market gardening and fruit growing transformed Burlington into the “Garden City” of southern Ontario.

Its modern role as a residential area for nearby cities began with the completion of the Queen Elizabeth Way in 1939 and of the Burlington Skyway Bridge in 1958. Since the Second World War, Burlington has increasingly developed an economic base of secondary manufacturing and service industries.

Further Reading

  • C. Emery and B. Ford, From Pathway to Skyway (1967); C.M. Johnston, The Head of the Lake (1958).

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