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Butchers, bakers, barbers all thrived on Newmarket's late 1800s Main Street

In this week's Remember This, the 2nd of a two-part series on Newmarket's thriving economy, History Hound Richard MacLeod highlights the many businesses of the era

This is the second of a two-part series weekend on Newmarket in the late 1800s from an economic or commercial point of view.

About 1903 or 1904, Samuel Bondi (Rusto) arrived from Italy and opened a fruit store on the Main Street hill, near the present-day Roadhouse & Rose funeral parlour, eventually moving to the former Adams barber shop further south on the west side. When I was a child, they operated a wholesale fruit business from their warehouse on Cedar Street near the River Commons.  

For more than a quarter of a century, Thomas Gardiner operated a foundry at the east end of the Cane factory on Davis Drive. About 1900, he decided to build his own foundry on Prospect Street, across from Grace Street, obtaining steam power from the adjacent machine shop. It was from here that he made the coats of arms for Her Majesty’s Post Offices. 

The building occupied by the Newmarket Dairy on Prospect, across from the hospital, was originally built as a clothing factory and later manufactured toys.

On early Main Street, A. Binns owned a large store just north of the Hewitt Hotel and J.A.W. Allan owned a hardware store where Newmarket hardware was later located. 

There were at least six locations selling watches, clocks and jewelry during this period. 

At the southern end of Main, there was a bowling green where the Loblaw’s store was located. This site was the formerly the William Roe trading post, stretching south on the east side to the corner of Water Street. 

The north end of the village was a highly active business area. J.A. Dales and Joseph Stephens operated a general store, near the Flanagan Hotel (the Union Hotel), later the Corner Cupboard in the 1890s. 

Further east was W.H. Eves Coal & Lumber, the Ford Mill, the Lukes’ Mill, and a little later, the Denne Mill.

On the south side of Huron Street (Davis Drive), west of the rail station, stood the Eagle Hotel and Denne Meat Packing and Egg Storage plant. Next to it was Charles Lundy’s warehouse for grain, and a chopping mill run entirely by horsepower. 

Across the road, an organ factory occupied the corner lot at Main and Huron and across from that was a small chopping mill operated by the Cook brothers. 

During the 1880s, Isaac Hoag operated an extensive lumber yard immediately west of the Methodist Church, and A.P.W. Pearson established a lumber and coal business at the south end of Church Street, the office located about where the Gorham Outdoor Pool is located. 

The local butchers’ directory listed more than 10 establishments in the late 1800s. Slaughterhouses were also part of the local industry and there were four in town.

Every town needs a great photographer. The earliest photography business listed is Craig Brothers, 1862, at the lower end of Main Street. In 1864, Mr. Fitzpatrick had a shop opposite the Railway Hotel and, in 1866, William Jones opened his picture gallery in an isolated building between the Royal and Hewitt hotels. Known for his sense of the historical in local pictures, his efforts produced several early Newmarket scenes that have been preserved.  

Afterwards, J. Blizzard, A. Henderson and Zurbrigg occupied the building and, at the Royal Hotel, W. Bogart, George Peppiatt and John Blizzard all operated photo galleries. 

Barbers were another necessity during this period with seven listed in the late 1800s alone.

John Townley was an early tailor, along with C.F. Willis in 1904, next to the Atkinson jewelry store. During the years prior to 1900, most tailoring was custom and each dry goods store had its own tailor.

A prominent institution prior to the installation of the domestic water was the pump factory. Each household had a well for potable water and usually a cistern.  George Penrose made pumps on Garbutt Hill (Prospect) near the Sutherland home and operated in the old Millard house beside the river until it was washed away in the flood of 1878.  

John Savage ran a pump works on the property west of the United Church near Dr. Case’s home, later moving to the Elvidge carpentry shop east of the marble works. John Dennis, 1868, was also making pumps opposite the Allan foundry on Timothy Street and B. Srigley made them at his residence on Garbutt Hill.

In 1899, Wesley Squires erected and operated a pump factory (pumps made of wood and run by horsepower) northwest of the cemetery and a second works on Cotter Street. 

During the 1880s, Brimson’s Carriage Works was on Lot Street (Millard Avenue) just west of the fire hall. They displayed at the Fall Fair of 1888 their top buggies, open buggies, phaetons, two-seated carriages, surreys, combination buggies, a road cart, and a spring seat Syracuse Portland cutter. Brimson also sold organs, the wonderful old-time parlour pump organs.

Until the invention of machine-made shoes, custom, handmade shoes provided a lucrative employment opportunity. Nearly all shops that sold shoes employed a cobbler. I found three from the time near the old rink, just south of Bowser’s store and in a tiny square building north of the early post office. 

Harness makers filled an important role, made by hand, with considerable pride taken in their work. At the corner of Main and Botsford streets, Timothy Botsford made harnesses at the Hewitt Hotel until 1902 when he moved farther north.

In the 1880s and ‘90s, others were in the building later occupied by Dawson’s clothing store across from the post office, with a huge parrot and a round wooden case filled with fancy whips sitting outside. 

Henry Jones, harness maker, shared space with the library, the building at the corner of Park Avenue and Main before the building of the post office. 

During the horse and buggy days, before the automobile, livery stables were a necessary feature of every town. Local stables were operated near the Forsyth House, near the Christian Church, and by E. Boyd on his property just west of Main on the north side of Botsford. 

When Henry Ford placed his Model T on the market at a price suited to the average man’s wallet, Ken Robertson became the most important dealer in cars, on Water Street just west of the Cawthra building. Soon other dealerships opened, selling more expensive cars, those of J. E. Nesbitt, Thomas Blizzard and Phil Hamilton. 

Agricultural implements were produced by James Allan in his foundry on Timothy Street. The various carriage factories around the town supplied all the necessary products until the end of the century and into the early 1900s.  

Farm supplies, including tools, machinery, harvesting machines, threshing machines, fancy carriages, wagons, ploughs and harness, all from the major Canadian manufacturing companies, were sold in Newmarket. 

During the middle of the 19th century, the John Botsford cabinet shop, at Botsford and Main, was occupied by a marble shop operated by Reid & Seevey. The big fire of 1870 wiped out all buildings in that block except the brick structure at the corner of Main and Timothy streets.  

Reid then opened his business at the corner of Main and Queen streets in the building later occupied by James Cassidy, later Cassidy & Allan, then Luesby’s Memorial. In 1863, sewing machines had been manufactured in this building.  

William Allan opened a marble cutting shop at the corner of Raglan and Queen streets. For 10 years he continued at that location until he entered a partnership with James Cassidy that lasted until Allan’s death in 1907.

The name Denne was prominent in Newmarket for more than three quarters of a century. Vincent Denne came to Newmarket in 1854, where for 16 years he operated a butcher shop on Main where Sport & Cycle Shop was located, but it was destroyed in the fire of 1870. 

Denne then went into the milling business, renting first the Lukes mill on Huron Street, then the Red Mill in Holland Landing. 

Charles Denne, son of Vincent Denne, operated a packing company, servicing the country with a wagon and team of horses, buying butter and eggs and meat by the carcass. The eggs were packed, and the meat was cured here in the Newmarket plant, then shipped by rail car to distant centers like New York. 

An article from the Newmarket Era in 1901 tells us the Denne packing house shipped eggs to the Old Country and handled 75 tons of pickles. A second packing plant, smaller than the Denne operation, was operated by James Widdifield at the south end of Main, approximately where the Odeon theatre was located. 

The Denne pickle factory was just west of Main and north of Huron, with huge vats of cucumbers curing. The building was later moved to Huron Street at the corner of Vincent Street, named for Vincent Denne. William Denne operated a feed store where the Bank of Montreal was located. 

In that building, organs, pianos and sewing machines were later sold by N. Johnson and, in 1890, Brooks Millard sold sewing machines there. 

Two years after the new rail station was built at the north end, the Queen City Oil Company installed an immense iron tank measuring 32 by nine feet in diameter and holding about 200 barrels of coal oil. The oil pumped from the railway tank cars was then delivered around town by tank wagon. 

A tremendous amount of shipping passed through the rail station and in March 1899 alone, 15 cars of lumber, 10 of bolts, three of coal, one of salt, five of stone, one of zinc and seven of merchandise were received. Five cars of woodenware, two of grain, three of stock, one of specialty goods, two of settlers’ effects and eight of merchandise were shipped out.

Newmarket’s economy was strong, and our future certainly looked bright.  We would remain a prosperous centre for the next 25 years or so. 

Sources: The Newmarket Era; Minutes of Newmarket Council; The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Stories of Newmarket – An Old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter; Articles by Robert Terence Carter in the Newmarket Era; The Memorable Merchants and Trades by Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; and Recollections Captured on tape early 1970s by George Luesby




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About the Author: Richard MacLeod

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years
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