Walking Tour of Historic Thornhill
|The following points
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.
|Take a walk through the streets of
historic Thornhill from the comfort of your own home!
Click HERE to begin viewing the slide
version of the tour.
The printed brochure version is available in the vestibule of the
Thornhill Village Library, at 10 Colborne St., Thornhill. (Stop 1)
|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.
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.
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.
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)
|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
of York in 1813. It's about half way along on the south side. (See
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.
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.
FRIZZELL'S HOUSE, 18 John St. The original
occupants of this house
played a role in the Rebellion of 1837. (See Plaque)
|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
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
southeast corner Yonge St. and John St.
OLD JANE AND
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
|7. Plaque, north side of Old Jane St
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.
C1 SIDE TRAIL
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)
D1 SIDE TRAIL,
MACDONALD HOUSE, 121 Centre St.The Tangled
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
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
|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)
|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.
|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.
|11. Plaque, northwest corner Yonge St.
and Centre St. in Lions' Parkette.
E1 SIDE TRAIL, THE
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.
12. Plaque, THE
OF THORNHILL, east side of Yonge St. just south of
Thornhill Summit Dr.
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.
|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)
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)
F3 SIDE TRAIL,
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
F4 SIDE TRAIL,
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.
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.
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)
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
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
Edition, 2002. The printed version is available in the Thornhill
Village Library, 10 Colborne St.
for the web in 2005.
We welcome your feedback.