At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the 1600s, both Iroquoian and Algonquian speaking peoples already lived in the Credit River Valley area. One of the First Nations groups the traders found around the Credit River area was called the Mississaugas, a tribe originally from the Georgian Bay area. By 1700 the Mississaugas had driven away the Iroquois.
Toronto Township was formed on August 2, 1805 when officials from York (what is now Toronto) purchased 84,000 acres (340 km²) of land from the Mississaugas for 1,000 pounds and in 1806 the area was opened for settlement. Toronto township is not to be confused with the present-day City of Toronto, as no part of the former township boundaries overlap with the Toronto of today. The various communities settled include: Lakeview, Clarkson, Cooksville, Dixie, Erindale (called Springfield until 1890), Lorne Park, Port Credit, Sheridan, Streetsville, Meadowvale and Summerville. This region would become known as Toronto Township. Part of northeast Mississauga, including the Airport lands and Malton were part of Gore Township.
After the land was surveyed, much of it was given by the Crown in the form of land grants to United Empire Loyalists who emigrated from the thirteen colonies during and after the American Revolution, some first went to New Brunswick before arriving in Mississauga. More than a dozen small communities grew in this area, most of which were located near natural resources, waterways for industry and fishing, and routes leading into York.
In 1820, a second purchase was made and additional settlements established including: Barbertown, Britannia, Burnhamthorpe, Derry West, Elmbank, Malton, Meadowvale Village, Mount Charles, and Streetsville. This led to the eventual displacement of the Mississaugas and, in 1847, they were relocated to a reserve in the Grand River Valley near present-day Hagersville. In 1873, in light of the continued growth seen in this area much as a result of the many railway lines passing through the township which spurred on industry, the Toronto Township Council was formed to oversee the affairs of the various villages that were unincorporated at that time. The Council's responsibilities included road maintenance, the establishment of a police force, and mail delivery service. Except for small villages, some grist mills and brickworks served by rail lines, most of present-day Mississauga was agricultural land, including fruit growing orchards through much of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Toronto residents would travel to the township to pick fruits and garden vegetables.
Mississauga Civic Centre seen from the south-east. Influenced by farmsteads which once occupied much of Mississauga, the architecture is based on a "futuristic farm" (the clock tower is the windmill, the main building on the top-right corner is the farmhouse, the cylindrical council chamber is the silo, and the pentagonal building on the bottom left is the barn)
Cottages were constructed along Lake Ontario in the 1920s as weekend getaway houses for weary city dwellers.
Malton Airport opened in 1937, which would become Canada's busiest, Toronto Pearson International Airport.
The Queen Elizabeth Way highway, one of the first controlled access highways in the world opened from Highway 27 to Highway 10 , Port Credit, in 1935 and later Hamilton and Niagara in 1939. The first prototypical suburban developments occurred around the same time, in the area of the Dixie Road and the QEW. Development in general moved north and west from there over time and around established towns. Large scale developments such as in Meadowvale and Erin Mills sprung up in the 1960s and 70s.
With the exception of Port Credit and Streetsville, the township settlements of Lakeview, Cooksville, Lorne Park, Clarkson, Erindale, Sheridan, Dixie, Meadowvale Village, and Malton were amalgamated by a somewhat unpopular provincial decree in 1968 to form the Town of Mississauga. The town name was chosen by plebiscite over "Sheridan". Political will, as well as a belief that a larger city would be a hegemony in Peel County, kept Port Credit and Streetsville as independent island towns encircled by the Town of Mississauga. In 1974, both were annexed by Mississauga when it reincorporated as a city. That year, the sprawling Square One Shopping Centre opened, which has since expanded many times its original size.
On November 10, 1979, a 106-car freight train derailed on the CP rail line while carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals just north of the intersection of Mavis Road and Dundas in Mississauga. The resulting fire was allowed to burn itself out, but a ruptured chlorine tank was the main cause for concern. With the possibility of a deadly cloud of chlorine gas spreading through suburban Mississauga, 218,000 people were evacuated. Within a few days Mississauga was practically a ghost town. Later when the mess had been cleared and the danger neutralized residents were allowed to return to their homes. At the time, it was the largest peacetime evacuation in North American history. Due to the speed and efficiency in which it was conducted, many cities later studied and modeled their own emergency plans after Mississauga's. For many years afterwards, the name "Mississauga" was to Canadians associated with a major rail disaster.
North American telephone customers placing calls to Mississauga (and other post 1970 Ontario cities) may not recognize the charge details on their billings, as Bell Canada continues to use the former community names, rather than "Mississauga", to identify exchanges in the city: Clarkson, Cooksville, Malton, Port Credit, Streetsville.
Mississauga has had only three mayors in its history. Dr. Martin Dobkin was the city's first mayor in 1974. He was then followed by Ron A. Searle. Searle was defeated by then-city councillor and former mayor of Streetsville, Hazel McCallion. McCallion is regarded as a force in provincial politics and often referred to as Hurricane Hazel, comparing her political force to the devastating 1954 storm that struck the Toronto area. McCallion has won or been acclaimed in every mayoral election since 1978, and in recent years has not even campaigned. She was recently re-elected for her eleventh term in November 2006 winning 91% of the votes. McCallion is the nation's longest serving mayor and was runner-up in World Mayor 2005.
In 2006, an international architectural design competition was held for a 50 storey condominium tower that is intended to be a recognizable landmark for the city. The winning design, named Absolute World, by Chinese architect Yansong Ma of the MAD firm, is a bold, curvaceous tower that was dubbed the "Marilyn Monroe" for its supposed sexiness, and has received plaudits from urban architecture critics such as Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star. The building, next to a second curved "pear shaped man" tower are currently scheduled to be finished by 2010. Mississauga experienced a hi-rise condominium boom from 2004 through 2008 greatly enhancing the prominence of its skyline.
Mississauga covers 288.42 square kilometres (111.4 sq mi) of land, fronting 13 kilometres (8 mi) of shoreline on Lake Ontario.
Mississauga is bounded by Oakville and Milton to the west/southwest, Brampton to the north, Toronto to the east, and Lake Ontario to the south/south-east. Halton Hills borders Mississauga's north-west corner. With the exception of the southeast border with Toronto (Etobicoke Creek), Mississauga shares a land border with all previous mentioned municipalities.
Two major river valleys feed into the lake. The Credit River is by far the longest with the heaviest flow, it divides the western side of Mississauga from the central/eastern portions and enters the lake at the Port Credit harbour. The indented, mostly forested valley was inhabited by native peoples long before European exploration of the area. The valley is protected and maintained by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVCA).
Etobicoke Creek forms part of the eastern border of Mississauga with the city of Toronto. North of there it passes through the western limits of Airport. There have been two aviation accidents, in 1978 and 2005 where aircraft overshot the runaway and slid into the Etobicoke creek banks. In 1954, heavy flooding resulted in some homes along the riverbank being swept into the lake after heavy rains from Hurricane Hazel. Since that storm, houses are no longer constructed along this floodplain. This creek and its tributaries are administered by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
Most land in Mississauga drains to either of the two main river systems, with the exception of the smaller Mary Fix and Cooksville Creeks which run roughly through the center of Mississauga entering the lake near Port Credit. Some small streams and reservoirs are part of the Sixteen Mile Creek system in the far north-west corner of the city, but these drain toward the lake in neighbouring Milton and Oakville.
The shoreline of former Glacial Lake Iroquois roughly follows the Dundas Street alignment, although it is not noticeable in some places but is more prominent in others, such as the site of the former brickyard (Shoreline Dr. in Cooksville), the ancient shoreline drops below affording a clear view of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario on clear days from the ridge. The land in Mississauga in general slopes gradually downward from almost 190 metres (623 ft) ASL in some northern spots to Lake Ontario(76 m/249 ft ASL), a 110 metre (361 ft) difference over an averaged 15 kilometres (9 mi) distance.
Apart from the Credit River valley and Iroquois shoreline, the only noticeable hills in Mississauga are actually part of the former Britannia Landfill near Streetsville and Centennial Park Ski Hill which is on the Toronto side of Etobicoke Creek.
In 2006, with the help of Project for Public Spaces, the city made a slogan "My Mississauga; Celebrate summer at city centre" for the summer festivities planned. Mississauga planned over 60 free events to bring more people to the city square. The square was transformed and now includes a movable stage, a snack bar, extra seating, and sports and gaming facilities (basketball nets, hockey arena, chess and checker boards) including a skate park. Some of the events included Senior's day on Tuesday, Family day on Wednesday, Vintage car Thursdays, with the main events being the Canada Day celebration, Rotary Ribfest, and Beachfest. Mississauga also boasts one of the largest shopping malls in Canada called Square One Shopping Centre, which is surrounded by many bars and restaurants, as well as City Hall, the Central Library, and Playdium.
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