Friday, June 06, 2008

Bus Bites #1

(First in a series of occasional short pieces on how our public transit system can reveal our local history.)

Regular readers will notice that we tend to go on about public transit at when the mayor smiles. Today we’ll take a break and get on the bus – Burlington’s route #5 to be specific.

You can see a lot from a bus but imagination helps.

The #5 BT leaves the John Street bus terminal and runs west on Ontario Street. Much history is evident.

At the corner of Locust and Ontario Street, for example, sits L’Eglise St. Philippe built in 1875. The Gothic Revival style building served as Calvary Baptist Church for many years. St. Luke’s Anglican Church (the Brant family’s Church) built in 1834 stands out further to the west.

Perhaps the historical highlight of #5 is "The Gingerbread House." Located at 1375 Ontario Street is often described as Burlington's best-known heritage landmark.

Heritage Burlington’s website ( calls it “(a) grand two-and-a-half-storey frame structure in Queen Anne Revival Style.” Originally part of Joseph Brant's Crown Grant, it was purchased for $450 by A. B. Coleman in 1893.

Some Imagination Required

Leaving Ontario Street the #5 turns south on Maple Avenue. You’ll need to close your eyes and open up your imagination to conjure up what the community has lost here on Maple Avenue. (But that is a story for another day.)

The Hotel Brant - built by the same A.B. Coleman in 1902, once dominated the southwest corner of Lakeshore/Northshore and Maple, where the museum and hospital now stand.

At a cost of $100,000 it was “ a capacious building with accommodation for over 250 guests. According to Burlington – An Illustrated History (Loverseed 1988):

“The hotel was equipped with all the modern conveniences, ample private and public baths on every floor, and lighted throughout with electricity. The dining room covered over 8,000 square feet. “

The Hotel Brant did not/could not serve liquor so Mr. Coleman opened an exclusive gentleman’s club across the street on the site that eventually became the Brant Inn.

Our bus continues on Northshore, Francis Road etc. winding its way back to the Terminal. Ten boardings (20 per hour) are counted on this May 14th mid-day route.