Burlington Builders

Creating a Legacy

In our lifetime, most of us aspire to create a legacy; one that leaves lasting memories that will be passed down to our children, families and community. A legacy is about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future. Leaving a legacy helps complete the circle of life.

Remember Our Roots

A year-round, fun, interactive, discovery experience… accessible to all.

In Burlington, families such as Brant, Ireland and the Smith’s have a left a distinct mark that can be seen on buildings, streets, parks and businesses. But, as our City grows and time passes, the challenge will be to ensure that we remember our roots and the proud legacy of our founding members.

Joseph Brant Museum provides an important link between the community and its heritage. We need to tell the story of those individuals and families that have laid the foundation for a better Burlington… “Our Community Builders”.

Thanks to generous citizen donations and government support, we believe we are close to making our dream a reality. A dream that has been in the making for nearly 30 years; the renovation and transformation of the Joseph Brant Museum into the Burlington Community Museum and Heritage Centre; a year-round, fun, interactive, discovery experience… accessible to all.

Sharing Our Stories

A key element of this exciting project is a permanent exhibition that will tell the story of Burlington’s Community Builders.

Please take time to view the Chamberlain Architects Concept Video, Fundraising Case Book, Foundation Brochure and Pledge Form.

Join us in Recognizing Your Family

We invite you to join us in allowing the Museums of Burlington to present your family’s stories, traditions, memories, hopes and dreams, and preserve them for future generations.

Dan Lawrie of Dan Lawrie Insurance Brokers donates to Joseph Brant Museum expansion

Dan Lawrie

Dan Lawrie says both in our Vision newsletter and video interview that the overwhelming benefits of expanding Burlington’s Joseph Brant Museum convinced him to get behind the project almost 10 years ago.

The founder of Dan Lawrie Insurance Brokers, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2017, was first approached about the project by John Doyle, President of the Burlington Museums Foundation. The Foundation has committed to raising more than $2.5 million as the community’s contribution toward the $11.4-million project.

“There are several things I like about this project. One is the attraction to youth. The museum has been active in getting school kids involved in learning about the history of Burlington. I also think that it’s important to know our history; it’s a really important factor in people staying in their community. Joseph Brant Museum has been instrumental in letting people know where we came from and where we are going. That sense of history is really important to me.”

The economic benefits are far reaching, he adds “The expanded museum will be a cornerstone, an entrance to the downtown. It’s going to be a very important addition to what’s already there – the exciting waterfront developments, the art gallery, the performing arts centre. This expansion will allow the museum to attract exciting new exhibitions – it’s going to be a great tourist attraction.”

Dan says he continues to support the Foundation’s fundraising drive which now must raise the final $1 million of its commitment. “I invite my friends, and challenge them to get on board to make this a very successful project. I think we all who make our living in a community understand it’s not just about the history, events and festivals that bring everyone together in a facility like this but it’s the economic factor.”

“Richard Florida (American urban studies analysis) stated that culture, and facilities like this, are the foundation that attracts the creative class, which in turn is the foundation for our economic prosperity. Business owners want a community that is vibrant, engages our citizens and that’s good for business.”

Don and Wendy Smith donate to Joseph Brant Museum expansion

Don & Wendy Smith

Giving back to the community that has been home to their family business for three generations comes naturally for Don and Wendy Smith.

Two-time recipients of the Burlington Mayor’s Community Service Award, the Smiths make a point of giving back both personally and corporately through their family-owned business, Smith’s Funeral Homes, which has been serving the area for 80 years. The Joseph Brant Museum expansion project was a perfect fit for their philanthropic goals, fulfilling their desire to create an historical legacy for future generations that will reflect the values of the community as well as the families whose hard work has made Burlington one of Canada’s best places to live.

“Wendy and I talked about what we could do to recognize the Smith family,” says Don, adding that the couple agreed to become part of the Community Builders Initiative as one of the Burlington’s founding families.

“Our donation to a sector of the museum to help make the project successful will not be about Wendy and myself. It will be in recognition of my great uncle and aunt, my father, mother, uncle, aunt, brother and the Williamson family from whom we purchased the business that had served families here as far back as 1877.”

Don adds legacy is so important to the values of a community. “How many times did our teachers and others tell us, if you want to know where you’re going you have to know where you’ve come from. Through the museum, we can look at the past and recognize the sacrifices that helped make this community special. Then we can think about what we can do as individuals to help continue that legacy, today and into the future.”

Don and Wendy got excited about supporting the museum expansion after hearing about the vision for its future from Burlington Museums Foundation Chair John Doyle as well as Barbara Teatero, Museums’ Director. “It was their vision for making the museum not only an attraction for the people of Burlington but for people around the world that moved us to get involved.”

Don says the expansion will give the museum a proper facility that can showcase Burlington’s past, including the stories of families that helped build the community, while “attracting exhibits of national and international renown that will draw audiences from the rest of Canada and beyond”.

“This project will be good for our community, good for Ontario and good for Canada,” says Don Smith.

He and Wendy are urging their friends, neighbours and fellow business owners to support the project as the fundraising campaign strives to raise the final $800,000 of the $2.5 million commitment made by Burlington Museums Foundation toward the $11.4-million expansion.

“This project is very worthwhile, and one that will make Burlington even greater.” Click here to watch our video interview or read our Vision Newsletter.

Michael Schwenger stands in front of Stresscrete Group company sign

Michael & Jane Schwenger

Philanthropy is a virtue Michael and Jane Schwenger are instilling into their family through the creation of a family foundation, and by creating a permanent home for the family’s history through the Community Builders Initiative in the expanded Joseph Brant Museum.

“The museum will have future needs once it is open, so by having our family front and centre in the Burlington Builders Gallery it will be a constant reminder to our kids and future generations about what we have in that facility,” says Michael, who took over his father’s business in 1976, transforming it into a company that supplies concrete polls and decorative light fixtures across North America.

The Stresscrete Group today is run by his son Michael Jr. with facilities in Burlington and the U.S. employing more than 400 people, including 160 at its Burlington plant.

Michael says he was approached about five years by Burlington Museum Foundation Ambassador Dan Lawrie, founder of Dan Lawrie Insurance Brokers. “We had been supporting the museum a little bit, but Dan came by and asked me to step up in a bigger way for the project they are doing now.”

The decision, he said, was simple. “If you can afford to do it, you should do it. That’s what I want to teach my kids. We have been very lucky, we have been blessed. And I believe it’s important that we give back.”

He said he and his wife were excited to become part of a project that will build on the successes of the Burlington waterfront. “With the new hospital and what’s happening at Spencer Smith Park, the expanded museum will be a great addition. It will encourage people to visit, to learn and be educated. You have to respect your history, and it’s important to show our children that too.”

Michael says it’s a great cause for community leaders to support. “We need to support our community whenever we can, and the museum is an important part of that. I am excited to see the finished product I can tell you. They’re going to do a great job with it.”

Click here to watch our video interview or read our Vision Newsletter.

Ireland Family

Built between 1835-1837, Ireland House at Oakridge Farm was the home of Joseph Ireland, one of Burlington’s earliest settlers. Emigrating from Bowes, Yorkshire, England in 1819 at the age of 27, he petitioned for land at Oakridge Farm and so began a legacy that continues today. Joseph and his descendants occupied Ireland House until 1985.

In 1987, the City of Burlington purchased the property from the estate of Lucie Marie Ireland Bush and established a museum, restoring the homestead to illustrate three distinct time periods that represent the generations of Irelands who lived in the house: 1850s, 1890s and 1920s.

Ninety percent of the furnishings are original to the Ireland family thanks to a generous donation by Helen Ireland Caldwell, Marie’s first cousin. Restorations of the house have reclaimed missing elements of former times, bringing the Museum back to its feeling of a period home and farm.

The property consists of 4 acres of woodland, gardens, potting shed, cottage/drive shed, and picnic areas. Tours of the property, living historical demonstrations, special events and educational programs are offered.