A Walking Tour of Historic Thornhill
The following points of interest will lead you on a self-guided tour through the Heritage District of old Thornhill, which celebrated its bicentennial in 1994. Settlement began when Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe advertised lots on Yonge Street, as it stretched northward from Lake Ontario. The name Thornhill did not come into existence until 1829 when Benjamin Thorne, a local merchant, was successful in having a post office established. By then it was the largest milling centre north of York (Toronto). The central core of the original village is a fine example of heritage preservation. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past when Ontario (then Upper Canada) was young.

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Take a walk through the streets of historic Thornhill from the comfort of your own home!
Slide Version
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Print Version

The printed brochure version is available in the vestibule of the Thornhill Village Library, at 10 Colborne St., Thornhill. (Stop 1)
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1. VILLAGE LIBRARY, 10 Colborne St. This house was built in 1851 for Mrs. Ellen Ramsden, born a Frizzell. It has been a grocery story and veterinary office; at one time the rear was a stable, with horses for hire. Since 1959, it has been the home of the Village Library which had been located in different venues since the first Book Society in 1829. The building has been expanded and renovated extensively and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as a unique example of a modest domestic building of the Classical Revival style. The garden is late Victorian in design and plantings. The library plays an important role in the community and also houses a ghost or two. The building celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2001.
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COLBORNE STREET As you make your way along this, the best preserved street in the Heritage District, note the plaques on many of the homes, which were typical mill workers' or craftsmen's dwellings The street is named after John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, 1828-1836. He also gave his name to John Street, one block south.

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2. ST. VOLODYMYR'S UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 15 Church Lane. Originally St. Luke's Catholic Church, it was built in 1847 by the Seager family and John Edey. The church was sold in 1972 to "St. Vlad's" when St. Luke's moved to new quarters on Green Lane.

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3. ST. LUKE'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH CEMETERY, is first left off Church Lane. Until 1954 this was the only Catholic burying ground between Toronto and Newmarket. (See Plaque)

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Al SIDE TRAIL, Walk through the cemetery, also known as the Thornhill Community Cemetery (1867). to Sumner Lane. Note the monument to Matthias Sanders, husband of the first owner of Cricklewood (see Side Trail F5) who fell at the Battle of York in 1813. It's about half way along on the south side. (See Plaque)

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A2 EDEY HOUSE, 4 Leahill Dr. Turn south onto Sumner Lane, continue east along John St. to Leahill Dr. Erected by master builder John Edey in 1845 for his growing family, this house is a fine example of the Regency Classical Revival style. Originally situated on the southwest corner of Yonge St. and Old Jane St, it was moved to its present site in 1966 due to the impending widening of Yonge St. This house is a testament to the fine craftsmanship of Edey and the loving care lavished upon it by subsequent owners.

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4. HOLY ANN HOUSE, 32 John St. Proceed south to John St, then west towards Yonge St. This cottage was moved from its original location near Yonge St. and Elgin St. Ann Preston (1810-1906) came from Ireland as a housekeeper to Dr. John Reid. Her piety and association with several miracles led to her being called, often derisively, Holy Ann. Pilgrims came to visit the miraculous well for its waters (see Side Trail B1). Holy Ann is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

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5. SUTTON FRIZZELL'S HOUSE, 18 John St. The original occupants of this house played a role in the Rebellion of 1837. (See Plaque)

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B1 SIDE TRAIL ANNSWELL PARK, Dudley St. At this point, you may cross John Street to Confederation Way, walking south past the town houses and through the iron gates to the little park on your left. The Park is named after Holy Ann Preston (see  Stop 4). A replica of her prayer shed and capped well are located here. When the well went dry, it is said that Ann's prayers brought water again, just one of the miracles associated with the Irish servant girl (See Plaque).
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6. Plaque, southeast corner Yonge St. and John St.

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OLD JANE AND ELIZABETH STREETS - Cross Yonge St. at John St. and walk north to Old Jane St. on the west side. Old Jane St. and Elizabeth St. (one block west) were formerly named Strachan, after the first Anglican Bishop in the area and Hillier after an aide-de-camp to Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant Governor c. 1826. The streets were renamed after the daughters of John Edey whose home (see Side Trail A2) once stood nearby.

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7. Plaque, north side of Old Jane St

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8. HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, Brooke St. Continue on Old Jane St. to Brooke St. to the site of this church, first located an the west side of Yonge St. at Royal Orchard Blvd. In 1950 it was dismantled, tagged and re-assembled here. Founded in 1830 by William Parsons and Benjamin Thorne, this is the oldest original church building still in use in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. The window, second from the front on the north side, is dedicated to Benjamin Thorne, both village and church founder. (See Plaque)

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C1 SIDE TRAIL ARNOLD HOUSE, 1860 - 21 Spring Gate Blvd. Walk south on Brooke St. past Holy Trinity Church and cross Arnold St. At the end of Brooke St. is the Gallanough Resource Centre, and to the west, at the corner of Springate Blvd. and Springfield Way. is this large red brick building. The house was moved from Yonge Street in 1981 and has been restored as an arts centre. (See Plaque)

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D1 SIDE TRAIL, THOREAU MACDONALD HOUSE, 121 Centre St.The Tangled Garden, now in the National Gallery in Ottawa. Thoreau's parents moved to Thornhill in 1912, where they first resided at 18 Centre St. Two years later the family moved to 121 Centre St. After his father death in 1932, Thoreau stayed on until 1974 when the house was donated to the City of Vaughan. A nature lover Thoreau lived here for 60 years, preserving on paper the way of life of a now vanished community. He designed the wheatsheaf logo for SPOHT. Much of his work is in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. From Holy Trinity Church, head north to Centre St., turn left to the garden gate and along the path to this farmhouse, once the home of Group of Seven artist J.E.H. MacDonald and later of his son Thoreau, a talented artist in his own right - book designer, illustrator and calligrapher. It was here that MacDonald senior painted his famous

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D2 SIDE TRAIL, Oakbank Pond - Two blocks west, along Centre Street, this pond is a small nature preserve, home to ducks and Canada geese. (See Plaque)

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9. MARTIN HOUSE STORE AND MUSEUM, 46 Centre St. The main trail goes east along Centre St. This Neo-Classical frame house was built by carpenter John Martin who originally came from Devon. Over a period of 50 years, he designed and erected a number of houses in the area. The best known example of his craft is the house that bears his name, built around 1845, possibly for his own family. It was erected on land granted to David Soules in 1805 by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. It has achieved prominence more recently, as a unique shop devoted to dolls, teddy bears and other toys. The Museum inside displays vintage dolls from the 1800s.
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10. HOMEWOOD HALL, 19 Centre St. One of the village's oldest houses, another fine example of the Neo-Classical style, was built in 1825 by carpenter Robert Shuter. It has been, since 1869, the home of many of Thornhill's doctors, during which time it became known by its present name.

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11. Plaque, northwest corner Yonge St. and Centre St. in Lions' Parkette.

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E1 SIDE TRAIL, THE MILL COTTAGE, 15 Mill St. From Centre St. north side, near Yonge St. follow Old Yonge St. past the park to Mill St. Many millworkers' cottages dotted this road. This double cottage is the only one remaining. Built circa 1825, its one of the earliest structures in the village.

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12. Plaque, THE FOUNDING OF THORNHILL, east side of Yonge St. just south of Thornhill Summit Dr.

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13. THORNHILL PAINT SUPPLIES, 7707 Yonge St. (corner Colborne St). This store, built in 1850 for the Gallanough family, has been in almost continuous use as a retail outlet. The Adkins family owned the paint store from 1946 to 2005.

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F1 SIDE TRAIL, WAITING ROOM, TORONTO RADIAL LINE, east side of Yonge St. at entrance to Cricklewood Park. Stop 17 housed passengers waiting for the electric radial streetcar which would take them north to Richmond Hill. Established by the Toronto and York Railway Company in 1896, the Line was in operation until 1948. This shelter, for decades located at the 14th hole of the Thornhill Country Club, has been moved and refurbished as a joint project of the Lions' Club of Thornhill and SPOHT. (See Plaque)
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F2 SIDE TRAIL, HOLY TRINITY CEMETERY, Yonge St. near Royal Orchard Blvd. This cemetery, dating back to 1830, is worth a visit. You may walk north on the west side of Yonge St. to Royal Orchard Blvd, or drive and park in the small lot or at the shopping plaza across the street. This was the cemetery for (Holy) Trinity Church now moved to Brooke St. (see stop 8). Col. Moodie, the first victim of the 1837 Rebellion, is buried here. There are also monuments to Benjamin Thorne, village founder, and to the Edey family. Many other prominent Thornhill families are buried here. (See Plaque)

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F3 SIDE TRAIL, THORNHILL PIONEER METHODIST CEMETERY,Normark Dr. off Baythorn Dr. One block north on the east side of Yonge St. is Baythorn Dr. Follow it to Normark Dr., turn left, and on your right is a small plot dating back to 1837 when Elizabeth Lyons set aside part of her farm for a Methodist meeting house and burying ground. (See Plaque)

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F4 SIDE TRAIL, HEINTZMAN HOUSE, 135 Baythorn Dr. Continue along Baythorn Dr. to Royal Orchard Blvd. where this handsome property is located on the southeast corner. Originally the land was settled in the early 1800s by Loyalist Anthony Hollingshead. When Col. George William Cruickshank, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, and later the area's first justice of the peace, arrived in 1816, he built a 13-room mansion around the original two-room farm house. After Cruickshank sold it in 1854, it was owned by a number of families. During the 1970s, John Francis bought what was than known as Sunnyside Manor. Samuel Francis, one of nine children born there, took over the home and farm in 1892. Charles Heintzman of the Toronto piano company, bought the property from Francis about 1930. He made many contributions including the art deco interior. After Heintzman's demise, the property was bought by the Town of Markham. With a grand ballroom, solarium, meeting rooms and landscaped grounds, it is rented out for social and public occasions, but is not open to the public. Several supernatural events point to the evidence of a ghost. In May 2000 this building was officially recognized by the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. It has been the scene of Hollingshead family reunions.

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F5 SIDE TRAIL, CRICKLEWOOD, 54 Cricklewood Cres. Continue west on Royal Orchard Blvd, turn left at Inverlochy Blvd. arrive at Cricklewood Cres. This grand home began as a small cottage built in 1803 on a Crown grant from King George III. The grant was to John Dennis, and the first cottage was built by his daughter Elizabeth who later married Matthias Sanders. (see Side Trail A1) In 1844 Englishman John Brunskill bought the property (which included several mills along John St.) and made a substantial addition to the Dennis home. Brunskill prospered until his sudden death in 1870, when his holdings were divided. Prominent lawyer George Hughes Watson bought the property in 1910. His daughter inherited the estate, and son Strafford got the rest including what is now the Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto (founded by golf champion Ada Mackenzie in 1924). The house, first called 'Brooklands' was renamed 'Cricklewood' in 1956. When it became part of a townhome development in the 1970s, the house remained although much diminished in lot size. In 1980 it was designated a heritage property. It boasts five bedrooms, six fireplaces, 11-foot ceilings, and a couple of ghosts! (See plaque)


Credits:
Compiled from A Walking-Cycling Tour of Old Thornhill (2nd edition, 1996) by Vic Stecyk and by L.F. Rogers, ca. 2000 from various sources. Production contributions from Peter DeMille and David Rawcliffe.


In August, 2000, the Town of Markham, which includes Thornhill (east of Yonge St. and Unionville, was named as winner of the first Prince of Wales Heritage Award. This prestigious prize was initiated by the Heritage Canada Foundation under Royal decree to honour local governments for preserving heritage buildings.

Versions:
First Edition, 2002. The printed version is available in the Thornhill Village Library, 10 Colborne St.
Adapted for the web in 2005.
Updates: June 2006.

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© 2014 The Society for the Preservation of Historic Thornhill