Once upon a time in Burlington

NICOLA THOMSON, after three years in Burlington, is somewhat of a local history buff. Her unique hobby, unhindered by the pandemic, is a daily walk or run, camera in hand, to the old section of Aldershot’s Greenwood Cemetery or The United Empire Loyalists’ Burial Grounds on Plains Road. Referencing gravestone names, she finds details of the person’s life and photographs their home or workplace, if still standing.

One of Nicola’s findings included two builders; Alfred B Coleman and his brother Charles, coming from England in the 1870’s. Nicola found Charles Coleman’s gravestone in Greenwood Cemetery and began her research. Alfred lived in a home he built on Nelson Avenue and he also built the very ornate Gingerbread House on Ontario Street.

In 1902, Coleman also built an inn on the site where Jo Brant hospital is located but it was later taken over as a military hospital. From there he built a country club across the street on the corner of Lakeshore and North Shore Boulevard, which eventually became the very famous entertainment venue, the Brant Inn. This club hosted big names from the swing era such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald. The legendary nightspot ran from the 1920’s until 1964.

Another one of Nicola’s findings was Peter Zimmerman. “Interestingly, The Queen’s Head Inn at Elgin and Brant was built in 1860 by Peter Zimmerman,” adds Nicola. Zimmerman originally rented it to a fellow named Evans to run as a first class hotel. Peter loved building hotels but did not want to manage them. He was a descendent of the Zimmerman family who emigrated from New Jersey in 1794.

Do you recognize these Burlington street names that Nicola matched to gravestones at the United Empire Loyalists’ Cemetery? DAVIS GHENT FREEMAN FISHER CROSBY KERNS PEART EASTERBROOK?

By Leslie Styles
Photography by Nicola Thomson

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