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Emma’s Back Porch – A historic waterfront restaurant building shuts its doors

November 2020

Legendary Burlington eatery Emma’s Back Porch and the Water Street Cooker shut its doors in May, after a 28 year run at its Old Lakeshore Road location in downtown Burlington, Ontario.

While Emma’s only operated for three decades, it was just the most recent business to occupy the building, which has stood over a century. Even the Emma’s restaurant name has a long association with the building, as it was chosen to honour original owner Emma Byrens.

In 1919, the building was known as the Estaminet Standard Hotel, owned and operated by Emma and George Byrens. Their restaurant opened with just four tables, and Emma would greet her guests in full evening attire, accompanied by her talking green parrot, Paul.

Emma Byrens died on 10 February 1959 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Burlington, beside George, who died in 1938.

The building has had several owners since the Byrens owned it, with restaurants like the Tree Top Restaurant, Sharky’s On The Water serving up the food and drinks until 1992 when it became known as Water Street Cooker, Emma’s Back Porch.

Over the years, the building has hosted numerous performers and dignitaries, including entertainers Louis Armstrong, Liberace and multiple prime ministers.  

Despite having been designated a historic building in 2009, locals fear that this prime waterfront property may become the site of yet another condominium tower, something the current corporate owner 2084 Lakeshore Holding Ltd. denies, stating they hope to secure another restaurant tenant.

Sources: https://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/10039032-owners-of-emma-s-back-porch-building-in-burlington-say-they-have-no-plans-to-turn-it-into-a-condo/?s=n1?source=newsletter&utm_content=a01&utm_source=ml_nl&utm_medium=email&utm_email=6641a943d7af4dbf58f985736331c513&utm_campaign=ihhp_79195, http://www.burlingtonghostwalks.ca/emmas.htm, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144399007/emma-byrens.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/emmas-back-porch-a-historic-waterfront-restaurant-building-shuts-its-doors/

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