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Bramalea turns 50
Monday November 30 2009
By PAM DOUGLAS of The Brampton Guardian
Canada's first planned satellite city- Bramalea- turned 50 years old in November 2009.
It was November 1959 when the Peterson family took possession of the keys to their brand new Bramalea home. They were officially the first family to move in to what was soon to become a highly successful and popular community. Many of the homeowners took possession in November, according to Bramalea native Lynda Voegtle.
Voegtle, co-chair of the Brampton Heritage Board, has done a lot of research on Bramalea, even though she grew up on the edge of the community, watching as it mushroomed from farmers' fields. She has an interest in its history, and currently lives in the D-section.
The dream that was Bramalea started with Dr. James Sihler of Sutton, Ontario in 1956.
"In the mid-'50s, villages grew out. There was no real planning to them," Voegtle said. "His idea was he wanted it (Bramalea) to be for the community and the people."
He chose the spot because it was open land between two major towns- Brampton and Malton.
He approached an area farmer, Bill Sheard, with his idea, and Sheard was enthused. He helped talk all the other farmers in the area to sell (except for one hold-out who did eventually sell) and by November 1958, Bramalea Consolidated Developments Limited (later Bramalea Limited) had amassed 5,500 acres.
Voegtle said it was Sheard who came up with the idea for the name of the new community- "Bram" came from Brampton, "mal" came from Malton, and "lea" is the British word for meadow.
Bramalea was a hamlet, albeit a very large hamlet, in the Township of Chinguacousy, bounded by Bovaird Drive in the north, Steeles Avenue in the south, Heart Lake Road in the west and Torbram Road in the east. It was built from the ground up, and no detail was overlooked. It was to accommodate between 50,000 and 90,000 residents and the plan was to have everything at their doorstep- major industries where they could work, shopping and cultural centres, and professional services such as doctors and optometrists were all factored into the planning. Bramalea Consolidated invested time, energy and money into ensuring all of those elements of daily life were in place.
For instance, industrial land was offered cheap, drawing new business and manufacturers. By 1974, more than 100 new companies had moved to Bramalea, including Northern Electric (Nortel) and Ford Motor Company, employing 10,500. Many of the companies are still there.
The roads weren't built in a grid pattern, as was the typical approach of the day. They were built with a main feeder road connected to courts and crescents that ran off of it. That made it easier for residents to get to know each other, and the streets were quieter. It was also designed so every student could walk to school without crossing a major street, and with pathways and greenbelts along the crescents, it was easy to move around.
"He really had a big dream he really did, and this was his dream of how a community should look," Voegtle said.
Other cities were studied, and Bramalea Consolidated took the ideas they liked and excluded those they felt didn't work.
The street names in each neighbourhood shared the first letter, starting with A and running through to P.
"It made it easier for visitors to come in," Voegtle said. "They saw streets with the same first letter and they knew they were in the right area."
The homes were 1,000 to 1,2000 square foot bungalows, split levels and two-storey, detached and semi-detached, on very large lots.
The houses were all different, and buyers had the option of different models County Pageant, Prides Fancy, Carriage Holiday or Journey's End, which cost $18,160 without a garage.
Later, more affordable townhouses and condominium townhouses were build on Balmoral Drive, believed to be the first condos in Ontario, Voegtle said.
"The population grew very, very quickly," she said, adding she passed the population sign as she road the school bus every day, and the number changed weekly, if not daily.
The population went from 1,960 in 1960 to more than 11,000 in 1967.
The growing community had milk delivery, bread delivery, dry cleaning pickup and drop off, and garbage pickup that residents paid one of two contractors to do.
At one time, the community's symbol, a drawing of a little girl named Bonnie Bramalea who was pictured holding a doll, would boldly say, "I live in Bramalea. Doesn't everybody?"
Although, technically, Bramalea no longer exists as a separate entity since amalgamation in 1974 saw Brampton swallow it up, the name lives on in the shopping mall, the road, the high school, sports clubs and service clubs.
"I hope it always does," Voegtle said.
Source: The Brampton Guardian. 2009-11-30 <http://www.thebramptonguardian.com/brampton/news/article/81523>