Photos: What Burlington Mall looked like 55 years ago

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Published November 27, 2023 at 3:23 pm

Burlington Mall opened its doors in 1968 forever changing the shopping habits of local residents (Burlington Historical Society photo).

Before 1968 your shopping choices in Burlington were typically small-town.

Stores along main streets and a few corner shops in neighbourhoods were where you would find clothes, appliances and food items.

If you wanted a little more variety, say from a department store, you had to head to Hamilton or make that long trek into Toronto.

But by the mid-60s there was a major shift in shopping habits sweeping North America, it was called “the mall” and Burlington was about to embrace the new concept.

From land carved out of a large orchard on Guelph Line at Fairview St., that mall began to emerge and life forever changed for local shoppers.

The first stirrings of the development appeared in late 1965 and the structures began to appear.

At that time this new mall was considered to be on the outskirts of town, a place you had to drive to and once there spend a few hours.

“I remember as a little girl the anticipation I had that something new and exciting was happening,” said Betty Voss, a long-time Burlington, who grew up around the lakefront. “When it opened it was such a big deal. You had to drive to get there and park in this giant parking lot. It was such a new experience for so many of us.”

So it was that in the fall of 1968 Burlington Mall opened its doors for the first time and with it began a life-long love affair with one-stop shopping.

At that opening 55 years ago, the main department store was Simpsons-Sears, a partnership between the long-established Simpsons chain and the giant U.S.-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. Coincidently, almost eight hours away directly east in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, another Burlington Mall opened just weeks before which also had as its main anchor a Sears store.

As for our Burlington Mall shoppers immediately loved the variety they now had.

Along with Simpsons-Sears there was Robinson’s department store, Black’s Camera, Maher shoe store, clothing stores such as Elk’s and Thrifty’s, beauty shops, a book store, a pet store, a number of restaurants and, of course, a movie theatre.

“We used to go to the movies while our parents shopped,” Roger McDaniel to inhalton.com. “It was a different time but everyone that it was so convenient having all these stores in one spot. When we got a little older it was a place to hang out. They had record shops, A&A I think, then maybe a little later Sam the Record Man for a short time. It was all right there at the mall, all you ever needed.”

Over the course of these 55 years, the mall has many undergone changes. Stores have come and gone, concepts have emerged and faded and renovations have taken place. In 2018, the 50th anniversary of the mall, the name was changed to Burlington Centre with the idea to make it a spot where the community gathers. For some, that has always been the case.

“I still consider it a kind of home away from home,” said Voss. “Yes, it has gone through lots of changes but it’s still my mall.”

Construction of the mall in the mid-60s (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

Inside the mall when it opened in the fall of 1968 (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

One of the many community groups that use the mall sets up a display in the early 1970s (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

Gathering some goods outside the mall. Love Story was playing at the theatre at the time which was a major box office success in 1970 and 1971 (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

An early aerial view of the mall. That’s Robinson’s department store front and centre (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

Stores such as Maher and Bonita were early tenants at the mall (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

The outside farmers market at the mall in 1996 (Burlington Historical Society photo).

 

A recent photo from the outside showing the name change into the Burlington Centre.

 

The centre has been the home of many stores over the years.

 

Inside the food court during renovations six years ago.

 

A recent photo before some store changes.

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