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Paletta Mansion – Historic Nelson Township estate now a picturesque special events facility

May 2023

The southern Ontario city of Burlington has many historic homes within its boundaries. One of the more stunning is Paletta Mansion, an 11,000-square-foot stone mansion on the Lake Ontario shoreline in the east end of Burlington. Complete with a gatehouse, a full-size children’s dollhouse, one of the few stables remaining in urban Burlington, formal gardens and natural forested areas on a fourteen- acre estate property, Paletta Mansion has been called the “Jewel in the Crown of Burlington’s waterfront.”

This historic property dates back to the early days of Upper Canada, when Lot 8, Concession 4 South of Dundas Street, in Nelson Township, was granted by the British Crown, in 1809, to future War of 1812 heroine Laura Secord and her husband James. The Secord family didn’t settle on the land, choosing to remain in St. David’s (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), where Major James Secord would go on to serve with the 1st Lincoln Militia under Major-General Sir Isaac Brock in the War of 1812.

The property saw around fifteen owners over the succeeding one hundred years until it was purchased by property developer William Delos Flatt and Canadian Steel Company founding director Cyrus Albert Birge. Over the next eighteen years, part of the property was mostly used by local residents for leisure activities, such as swimming, boating and fishing, while the rest of the property operated as a tender fruit farm.

In 1930, Edythe Merriam MacKay, the daughter of Cyrus Birge, built the magnificent stone mansion on what became known as Shore Acres Estate. Traveling through Europe and southern America for furnishings, wall coverings, tiles and carpeting, the mansion, Edyth and her husband John Wallace MacKay created an idyllic home befitting their upper-class status.

The three-storey mansion, with a full walk-out basement, featured amenities such as the dumbwaiter, servant’s quarters, and a ballroom where they would host parties. With an exterior consisting of grey and burgundy stone set in a course rubble pattern, it had classical features and formal elements reflected a French Country Estate home. The mansion has a consistent pattern of similar sized windows with green shutters, each window featuring a keystone with a five stone pattern lintel above that reinforces the classical and French influences. The main door is framed by Tuscan columns and the lake side of the mansion featured a covered verandah, also with Tuscan columns, and attached terrace

The main floor features large formal rooms with two fireplaces, while the second floor has five large bedrooms with fireplaces, with additional unfinished bedrooms on the attic level. The basement has a large room for storing horse riding gear.

After Edythe died in 1960, a year after John, the house was passed to their daughter Dorothy and her husband John Wallace McNichol. The property then came to be known as the McNichol Estate, and was used as a summer residence for McNIchols, who maintained a permanent residence on Queen Street in Hamilton.

When Dorothy died in 1987, the McNichol Estate was passed on to her five children, who sold it to the City of Burlington three years later. The mansion sat vacant and boarded up for several years, while the city decided what to do with it. Demolition of the historic mansion was a realistic possibility.

Restoration on the mansion took place 2000, financed by Hamilton businessman Pasquale “Pat” Paletta, under the condition that the mansion be re-named Paletta Mansion.

Paletta Mansion currently operates as a special events and wedding facility, run Edge Hospitality.

Stables/Carriage House

The stables, with its paddock areas, is the only remaining stable in the city limits of Burlington. It is a two-storey gambrel-roofed frame structure with two one-storey frame additions, that dates from between 1915 and 1930. The roof boasts a dovecote with cross gable roof.

Caretaker’s Gatehouse

The gatehouse, built around 1912, is a one-and-a-half storey frame cottage in the Arts and Crafts Style, was occupied by the gardener or groundskeeper. Clad with narrow clapboard wood siding and is supported by a rock-faced concrete block foundation, it features a recessed half-front porch, with an octagonal column in the corner supporting the overhanging roof.

The porch is defined by a low cobblestone wall, a popular feature at the time along the lakeshore in Nelson Township, and projecting Arts-and-Crafts Style front steps.

The end-gabled roof has large dormers both front and rear, featuring front gables with returns. The L-shaped house sits atop a rusticated concrete block foundation.


The Dollhouse was built in 1930 as a childhood playhouse for Dorothy (MacKay) McNichol. This miniature two-room framed bungalow in a modified Arts and Crafts Bungalow style, is clad with narrow clapboard siding and came complete with running water and electricity.

Sources: Paletta Mansion, Laura Secord – Wikipedia, Shore Acres Estate – Paletta Mansion – Heritage Burlington, HAUNTED EVENING at Paletta Mansion with Haunted Hamilton | Burlington, Ontario | A SEANCE and Paranormal Investigation Experience with Spooky Steph Dumbreck and The Spooky Misfit Crew (haunted-hamilton.com), Burlington Cultural Mapping, Not on the auction block yet. Paletta Mansion is going to be given a new business model to stop the financial bleeding. « Burlington Gazette – Local News, Politics, Community, Obituary: Paletta patriarch who built business empire from nothing dies at 87 | TheSpec.com, Shores Acres Estate Gatehouse Lodge – Paletta Mansion – Heritage Burlington.

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.

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