Markham History

Markham is a community that lies just north of Steeles Avenue which is the city boundary of Toronto, and lies in York Region adjacent to the 407 Highway

Markham Township was named by Governor Simcoe’s close friend, William Markham, the Archbishop of York, and was surveyed in 1793-94. . In 1794, William Berczy led 75 German families from New York State to Markham Township, which remained pretty isolated until the construction of Yonge Street in 1796. By 1812, the community attracted significant numbers of industrious Pennsylvanian Germans, including many Mennonites. By 1815, they were joined by numerous Irish, Scottish, and English immigrants.

When the economy shifted to mass production, and production centralized in and around Toronto, Markham gradually declined. After World War Two, the massive immigrant-based expansion of Toronto again enabled Markham to grow significantly.

Markham Background

Markham Attractions

11 Joseph Street 153, Markham

Originally built as an 1890 brick livery stable, it became the meeting hall of the Markham District Veterans. In the 1950’s, they moved their meetings to the old St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Jermain Street, where they are today. The building was sold to the Economist and Sun newspaper in the early 1950’s, where they remained until the early 1970’s.

Austin Drive Park (Unionville)

North of Highway # 7, South of Austin Drive, between the Kennedy By-pass and Bullock Drive

This 5.58 hectare (13.8 acre) park has a wooded area (where the forest is being regenerated), a large open space, the Rouge River flowing through, Waldon Pond and a second smaller pond. There are 2 kilometres of pathways for walking, running, and bird watching.

Community of Dickson Hill

Highway # 48 and 19th Avenue, Whitchurch Stouffville

John Dickson, a Millwright and mill owner, established a grist mill in1843, with the mill pond located near the SE corner of Highway 48 and 19th Avenue on this tributary of the Rouge River, now called Dickson Hill Creek. The community developed around the creek and the mill.


54 Cricklewood Cres. Thornhill
Built in 1803 on a Crown grant to John Dennis from King George III, and the first cottage was built by his daughter Elizabeth who later married Matthias Sanders. In 1844, Englishman John Brunskill bought the property which then included several mills along John St., and made a substantial addition to the Dennis home. After he died 1870, the lands were divided, and part became the Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto (founded by golf champion Ada Mackenzie in 1924) and the home, first called ‘Brooklands’ was renamed ‘Cricklewood’ in 1956, and became part of a 1970s townhome development. In 1980, the home with five bedrooms, six fireplaces, 11-foot ceilings, and a couple of ghosts was designated a heritage property.

Ebenezer United Church

5000 Steeles Avenue East, Milliken Mills (Markham) L3R 7B4

In the 1840’s, Primitive Methodist circuit-riding Ministers preached to settlers around in Milliken’s Corners (named for the local farming Milliken family). By 1852, the first frame church was built, on the Thomas Harding farm, now the southeast corner of Brimley and Steeles. The congregation flourished and in 1878 a new church was built on land donated by the Harding family. In 1925, Ebenezer became part of the newly formed United Church of Canada. With the urban expansion around Toronto, in the 1980s a large expansion (the present sanctuary) was added to the church.

Forsythe Family Farms

10539 Kennedy Rd, Unionville, L6C 1N8
905-887-1087 Fax: 905-887-9713

Relax! Enjoy time with family and friends. Farm animals, mazes, play areas, weekend wagon rides and enchanted forest. Barn market with fresh Ontario produce, pies and preserves. Pick your own strawberries and pumpkins. Harvest Festival each weekend in October.

German Mills Settlers Park (Thornhill)

SW John Street & Leslie Street
905 415-7535

This 26 hectare (65 acre) natural area park is part of the German Mills Creek system. There is a peaceful walking area, a gazebo, and a park with trees recently planted by the Thornhill Summit Scouts. In the open area, on the West side of the creek, is a gravel pit and a landfill site.

Grasshopper Playhouse

28 Crown Steel Drive, Unit # 12, Markham, L3R 9Y1
(One light east of Warden)
905-944-9358 fax: 905-944-9359

A 2500 sq ft indoor children’s playground suitable for children up to 7y rs. Slides, ball pit, games, rides, party room, kitchen with eating area and more. Open Tuesday-Friday 9:30am to 2:30pm, Wednesday Evenings 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Admission.

Foundry, The

120 Robinson Street, Markham

This foundry cast the bell which hung in the Steeple of the Grace Anglican Church, when it was on Wellington Street. A new bell tower was constructed in front of the current church– on Parkway Avenue–now houses the bell.

Hamlet of Box Grove

9th Line and 14th Avenue

Originally called Sparta, but village changed its name it got a post office in 1867, the year of Confederation. Sometimes referred to as “Sparty Wharf”, at the head of navigation of the Rouge River, the village had a sawmill, a woolen mill, and a shoddy mill (making woollen cloth from fibres produced by grinding/recycling woolen rags) owned by the Tomlinson family, which purchased land here in 1815. They had subdivided the Village into lots 100 and 250 feet wide by 250 feet deep. Box Grove grew into working man’s village with three taverns. Gradually, as the mills declined, Box Grove diminished in importance, and by the turn of the last century, the last hotel/tavern closed, and burned down in 1910.

Heintzman House

135 Baythorn Dr. Thornhill
(at Royal Orchard Blvd)

This handsome property lies on land settled in the early 1800s by Loyalist Anthony Hollingshead. Col. George William Cruickshank, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, and the area’s first justice of the peace, he built a 13-room mansion in 1816 around the original two-room farm house. From 1854 until the 1970s, the “Sunnyside Manor” was owned by a number of families. Charles Heintzman of the Toronto piano company, bought the property about 1930 and added the art deco interior. Now owned by the Town of Markham, the home has a grand ballroom, solarium, meeting rooms and landscaped grounds, and there are stories about a ghost. It can be rented out for social and public occasions, but is not open to the public. In May 2000 this building was officially recognized by the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, and is the scene of Hollingshead family reunions.

Historic Thornhill

First settled in 1829, the hamlet of Thornhill began as plank cabins in forest clearings, frame buildings, snake fences and a few brick houses. Thorne lived on a hill that overlooked the great mills, the source of community trade & wealth, until he died in 1845. There are still some surviving properties along Yonge Street from the ‘original’ village including the 1834 Mortimer House ( the first Pastor of Holy Trinity Church), Soules Inn (stagecoach depot since 1830, later a Temperance Inn), Langstaff School, the fourth on this site since 1811. Other ‘survivors’ nearby are Cricklewood, Sunnyside Manor, Holy Trinity Church, and the Methodist Church on Centre Street.

Historic Tour of Markham

Presented by The Town Crier of Markham Inc
28 Parkway Avenue, Markham, L3P 2G1
(905) 472-3122 Toll-free: 1-888- 478-3122 Fax: (905) 472-4580

Tour includes Box Grove, Cedar Grove, Cemeteries, Churches, Heritage Bld., Heritage Bldg, Heritage Estates, Historic People, Main Street, Markham Heritage District, Museum, Peter Street, Rivers and Streams, Schools, Street Names, Thornhill, Unionville, Veteran, Wilson Street,

Holy Trinity Cemetery

Yonge St. near Royal Orchard Blvd,Thornhill

This cemetery, dating back to 1830, is worth a visit. The oldest tombstone (Rebecca Thixton Willson) dates to 1804, buried elsewhere, but moved to be buried next to her husband when he died in 1829. Col. Moodie, the first victim of the 1837 Rebellion, is buried here. There are also monuments to Benjamin Thorne, the village founder, and many other prominent Thornhill families are buried here. This was the cemetery for (Holy) Trinity Church, which has since moved to nearby 140 Brooke Street (north of Centre Street, west of Yonge Street, Thornhill)

Lil Explorers

190 Bullock Drive, Unit 10, Markham, L3P 7N3
905-910- 7529, Fax: 905-910-7528

An indoor playground for ages 1 – 9, featuring a rock climbing wall, slides, eating area and more. Loot bags available for parties. Daily Play hours: Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Party hours: Tuesday to Friday: 3:30 pm – 8:00 pm. Saturday & Sunday:9:30 am – 8:00 pm

Markham Heritage Estates

Heritage Corners Lane at 16th Avenure

Heritage Estates is a sanctuary of last resort for threatened historic Markham houses, and is unique in North America. The neighbourhood includes 26 lovingly restored private heritage homes, including a number of homes built by the Berczy Settlers, and some of the Pennsylvania German Settlers attracted to Markham by earlier German settlement.

Markham Museum

9350 Highway 48 Hwy., Markham, L3P 3J3
(Just north of 16th Avenue)
905-294-4576 Fax: 905-294-4590

Markham Museum has exhibits about history, the environment and science, with focus on history, environment and agricultural technologies. There is a wetland area, working gardens and an orchard. Visit historic homes, the blacksmith shop, Markham’s oldest Baptist church, and the H. Wilson Variety Hall. There’s also a historical railway car, and horse-drawn vehicles. Special events include March Break Extravaganza, Haunted Museum, and Applefest.Open year-round, daily noon to 5 pm, and Thu-Sat till 8 pm. Tours Daily (except Mondays) at 1 pm and 3 pm. Admission.

Markham Train Station

214 Main Street Markham North

By 1871, the Markham Village Train Station was built by the Toronto and Nipissing Railway Company, which was the first publicly operated narrow gauge railway in North America. The railway’s arrival grew commerce and industry in the surrounding community. 1885, it had become part of the Grand Trunk Railway system. By the early 1990’s the owner, CN Rail was looking to rid of the Markham Station, and in 2000, the Station was restored to its 1910 appearance and serves as a GO Transit Station, with meeting rooms and rental facility. Wheelchair accessible

Martin House Store and Museum

46 Centre Street, Thornhill, L4J 1E9

This 1845 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 land here was granted to David Soules in 1805 by Lieutenant Governor Simcoe. This store and museum has a great collection of handmade vintage dolls from the 19th and 20th centuries, including many antiques. Themes covered include ethnic, character and storybook dolls.

Milne Dam Conservation Park (Markham)

8251 McCowan Rd, Markham, ON L3P 3J3
(On the East side of McCowan Road, just South of Highway # 7)
(905) 477-5530 Picnic permits: (905) 477-7000 ext. 750

This 123-hectare (305-acre) park is Markham’s largest park. There is thick forest on the southern and eastern edges, and the Rouge River passes through the middle. The park is a migratory bird stop off (best viewing early morning, late in day). Off-leash dog area only at the NW corner of Miller Avenue and Rodick Road. The 2.3 kilometres of trails are suitable for walking, jogging and cycling. Fishing is allowed with a MNR fishing permit (available at bait shops and Canadian Tire stores). Popular for large group picnics, with a modern picnic shelter for 100 people. Open am until dusk from Victoria Day weekend until Thanksgiving. Admission: free weekdays, weekends and statutory holidays $5 parking fee.

Reesor Farm Market

10825 Ninth Line Line, Markham, ON, L6B 1A8

Reesor Farm Market had its beginning back in 1985 with sweet corn as the main crop. Now they feature fresh fruit and vegetables. Strawberry picking starts mid to late June for 3-5 weeks. Corn picking from mid-July till the end of September. Also, delicious baking & entrees from Reesor Farm Kitchen. Open early June until early November.

Richmond Hill Heritage Centre

19 Church St. North, Richmond Hill, L4C 3E6
905-780-3802 Fax: 905-787-1847

The Richmond Hill Heritage Centre is an 1840’s Regency Style Cottage surrounded by the beautiful gardens of Amos Wright Park. Meander through the galleries highlighting the rich history of the community, participate in a hands-on workshop, enjoy afternoon tea and take home a package of one of our private blends as a souvenir of your visit. Birthday parties, Group Tour, Activity Packages and Rentals available.

Roxy Theatre

96 Main Street North, Markham

The Roxy Theatre is situated in the Old Town Hall. The Upstairs was used as the Rehearsal Hall for Markham Little Theatre.

Sharon Temple National Historic Site

18974 Leslie St., Sharon, L0G 1V0
905-478-2389 Fax: 905-473-2402

This National Historic Site commemorates the contributions of the Children of Peace to Canadian Society. Guided tours of the eight historic buildings and exhibits feature artifacts from the Children of Peace. The temple’s reknowned acoustics by many concerts over the season. Special events include Illumination, where every window and lantern of the Temple glows with candlelight.

Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum

7601 Martin Grove Rd, Vaughan, L4L 9E4
905-264-9390 Fax: 905-264-9445

Opened in 2001 at The Soccer Centre, in Vaughan to celebrate the centennial of The Ontario Soccer Association. Visit the Museum on special soccer functions, or by appointment. There is the “Wall” of Fame which was built to honour our Inductees. School and group tours welcome by appointment.

Stomp ‘N’ Romp

158 Anderson Avenue, Units 11 & 12, Markham, L6E 1A9
905-201-2626 Fax: 905 201 0263

An indoor playground for ages six months to ten years of age, with toys and play systems. Parents can relax in our spacious lounge area enjoying a snack or beverages while the youngsters enjoy themselves. Bear making facility. 2 private party rooms. Open 6 days per week

Thornhill Village Library

10 Colborne St., Thornhill, L3T 1Z6

This 1851 house was built Mrs. Ellen Ramsden (nee Frizzell) and was used as a grocery store, and a veterinary office, with the rear used as a stable. Since 1959, it has been the home of the Village Library (which had various locations since the first Book Society in 1829), and is now a designated Heritage Building and appropriately renovated. This is a unique example of a modest domestic building of the Classical Revival style, with a late Victorian garden, and a ghost or two.

Toogood Pond (Unionville)

behind Unionville Public School, between Carlton and Kennedy
This 33.3 hectare (82.3 acre) park features a partially naturalized pond and marsh, with a walkway around. The pond was recently restored, including plantings of native trees, shrubs and wildflowers and adding cascading pools to accommodate fish migration.

Varley Art Gallery of Markham, The

216 Main Street, Unionville, L3R 2H1
905-477-9511 ext 211 (info) ext. 228. (tours) Fax: 905-477-6629

The Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery of Markham in Unionville includes the historic 1840 Kathleen McKay house (now the McKay Art Centre) that was the home of Frederick Horsman Varley for the last 12 years of his life, before he died in 1969. Gifted by Kathleen to the Town of Markham, the Town added a 15,000 sq ft gallery a few doors away on a 25 acre site. Exhibitions from the permanent collection as well as contemporary exhibitions from local, national and international artists. The centre has dynamic hands-on art-related activities, including group tours, school programs, studio courses and workshops, courses and lectures, and family activities. Guided and self-guided tours are available to groups of 10 or more people, Wednesday through Sunday during public Gallery hours (1 – 1 1/2 hours in length). Open winters Tue-Sat 10 am to 4 pm, Sundays noon to 4 pm; Spring & Fall open till 5 pm; Summer hours daily 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm. Admission.

Uplands Ski Centre

46 Uplands Ave, Thornhill, L4J 1K2
(2 sets of lights south of the 407 off of Yonge St.)

Golf in the summer and ski in the winter at Uplands, just north of Toronto. Downhill ski and snowboard on four slopes, featuring a chair lift, tow rope, night skiing, snow making, equipment rental, ski school and licensed lounge. Ski programs are available for all levels of skiers, from Toddlers to advanced. Golf in the summer on a nine-hole course open since 1922.

Whittamore’s Berry Farm

8100 Steeles Ave. East, Markham, L6B 1A8
(next to the Rouge River Valley)
905-294-3275 Fax: 905-294-8232

Whittamore’s Country Farm Market sells freshly picked fruits and vegetables in season as well as a baked goods, preserves, Ontario maple syrup and honey. You can also visit the barnyard animals, enjoy the countryside, and pick-your-own fresh strawberries, raspberries (summer & fall), vegetables and tomatoes. Enjoy our harvest festival weekends in October at Pumpkinland and choose your jack-o-lantern from 1000’s of pumpkins. Open daily May-Oct. Hours & activities vary with season, please call,

Markham, Ontario Area Map