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.
|Take a walk through the streets of
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Standard Web Version
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viewing the standard web 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.
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.
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.
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 Battle of York in 1813. It's
about half way along on the south side. (See Plaque)
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,
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
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).
southeast corner Yonge St. and John St.
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.
north side of Old Jane St
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
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)
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
|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.
northwest corner Yonge St. and Centre St. in
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.
THE FOUNDING OF THORNHILL, east
side of Yonge St. just south of Thornhill Summit
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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
First Edition, 2002.
The printed version is available in the
Thornhill Village Library, 10 Colborne St.
Adapted for the web
Updates: June 2006.
We welcome your feedback.