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REMEMBER THIS: 1920s brought Newmarket a hospital, saw Trading Tree saved

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his timeline series

Welcome back to our timeline of Newmarket’s history, where we pick up the story in 1921, following the roller coaster war years.

The year 1921 finds the local butchers presenting a petition to amend a bylaw that prohibited them from selling smaller cuts of meat as this was reserved for the farmers market. They were limited to the sale of quarter carcasses at the time.

Newmarket’s first fire chief, Fred Doyle, put in a request to purchase a motorized fire engine to carry at least 150 feet of fire hose. A new fire truck was indeed purchased in June 1921.

The Board of Trade secured an option on a piece of land between Church Street and Lorne Avenue to create a municipal park. It seems there was a great deal of controversy as to the location chosen and the option was allowed to expire with no park being built. There was still a burning desire for a town park amongst the citizens.

Also, 1921 was the year that some of our street names changed. Lot Street was renamed Millard Avenue in recognition of the gentleman who owned a huge track of land, including the location of this street. Gorham was extended to Main on the east side and Eagle Street was extended to Main on the west side. This was rescinded so after with the name of Water Street reappearing from Prospect to D’Arcy Street as it is today.

Finally, we received our promised paved roads in 1921 with Main Street being paved from Eagle to Huron Street (Davis Drive) and the stretch to the east running up to the railway station. This was only completed after the sewer system was completely installed along Main.

A public meeting was held this year to advance the proposal of purchasing a portion of the Lewis Farm at the west end of Park Avenue and building a new park. It seems the public back then wanted a public park as much as my generation wanted a public pool (Gorman Pool).

There was a substantial fire at the Methodist Church on Main this year and services had to be moved to the town hall where the church fathers rented space for $5 per service.

That great full-size portrait of Alexander Muir that hung in the Alexander Muir School all those years was commissioned and donated by his son, J.G. Muir, who was the printing foreman of the Era.

I bet not many remember that in 1921 the Sisman Shoe Company of Aurora opened a branch factory in the McCauley block across the road from the Post Office.

The maintenance of Main was put up for tender in 1921. The job had grown more complex given all the horses and wagons that were travelling along the nice, new paved roads.

The year 1922 brought a new mayor, W.H.S. Cane (Howard) who was a local manufacturer. He promptly declared publicly that ’one day Newmarket will be a city’. This pledge (warning) would be repeated in 1983 when then mayor Raymond Twinney made the same bold pronouncement.

Meetings were held to plan the paving of the remaining town streets. A delegation met with council to propose the opening of Queen Street east of Pleasantview but they were told that it could not happen until the harvest of buckwheat had been completed. Agriculture held prominence at that time it seems.

It was also in 1922 that a new First World War memorial was unveiled at the entrance to Newmarket High in recognition of those who paid the ultimate price. For those who read my earlier article on the Stuart Scott School, you will likely remember that this is the year that public meetings were held concerning the need for a new public school on the west side of town. There was a bit of controversy involved in the selected site but in the end Lorne Avenue was chosen.

The old oak tree on Timothy Street, coined the Trading Tree, presented a dilemma for the town in 1922 as many felt that it obstructed the road but, in the end, local sentiment prevailed, and the road was built around the tree and it was saved.

E.H. Adams built a new movie theatre on the east side of Main. The new arena was built on Cedar Street in 1922 at a cost of $40,000. Both events were the topic of earlier articles on Newmarket Today.

Plans were unveiled in 1923 for a new municipal hall and a fire station on the north-west corner of Main and Millard. The new structures were to have an open area measuring 48 feet by 48 feet and include a First World War memorial, but the idea was voted down due to the cost.

This year the plans for the new Stuart Scott School were finalized. It was decided that it would be the same design as those of the King George School. Work began in May of that year and the cornerstone was laid by Sir William Mulock Aug. 31. The new Palace theatre opened in 1923.

In 1923, new fire alarm boxes were installed around the town and connected to the waterworks. The system was ingenious. When a fire was reported, the waterworks phoned the Office Specialty and indicated the location of the fire. The Specialty then blew its huge steam whistle in a manner that signalled the location (for example 2 long and 3 short toots). Everyone knew the code and so attendance at the local fires became a bit of entertainment for the community.

The steel bridge on Water was refitted with new four-inch planking, replacing the old wood ones.

The old Strand theatre on Main closed this year and was replaced by a store occupied by the Charlie Chu restaurant.

This year also saw the passing of Danford Roche who had once owned a series of department stores in Newmarket, Aurora, and Toronto. He boasted the first telephone in the area, which connected his local stores to Toronto.

In 1924,  the town hired its first solicitor, N.L. Mathews, who was part of the well-established law firm of W. C. Widdifield.

It was in 1924 that Dr. Dales first proposed to the Board of Trade that the hospital should be a public institution with members putting up $5 to be voting members. Dales had established the area’s first hospital in his home. Elections were soon held, and a new hospital board was installed.

A new threat to the merchants of Newmarket came in 1924 and there was a push to encourage locals to shop locally. With the establishment of the Metropolitan Electrical Railway to Toronto and the advent of mail-order catalogues, local business had taken a major dip. A campaign was launched in earnest during the year.

The year 1925 brought with it a new mayor for Newmarket, J.E. Nesbitt, a farm implement and car salesmen. For those who collect Canadian currency, this was the year that a third issue of the 25 cent bill, called the shin-plaster was placed into circulation.

The town solicitor was appointed our town clerk and treasurer this year. Of note, this was the year that Sir William Mulock purchased 50 acres of land on the south-west corner of Yonge Street and Mulock sideroad to serve as his new experimental farm.

Alex Doner purchased his 200-acre farm on Yonge this year for an estimated $75,000. He would have 82 Jersey cattle and boasted the first electric milking machines in the area. His farm would later constitute part of the Glenway Estates development.

It was in 1925 that the town purchased the former E.S. Cane estate on the southeast corner of Davis and Prospect for a new hospital at a cost of $15,000. A bond issue was raised in July, raising $30,000 for construction of the hospital.

In 1926, J.E. Nesbit still our mayor. The high school board proposed a plan for a new wing with a public meeting Jan. 29. The amount required was estimated to be $100,000. By May work began on a large wing in front of the existing structure, facing Prospect. Construction progressed very quickly, and the cornerstone was laid by Sir William Mulock July 2 and the wing opened officially to the school population Dec. 26.

K.N. Roberson advertised in the local paper a new four door car for $755, a two-door for $695, a Runabout for $410 and Touring car for $440. If you required an electric starter, it would cost you an extra $65.

Several re-locations of existing businesses took place this year. Roadhouse and Rose moved from Queen and Main to its present location and Van Zant Brothers moved into their old building. J.L. Harrison opened a drug store in the former Dunlop Clothiers premises where the Bank of Toronto was located and C.G. Wainman, a jeweller purchased the business of J.L. Atkinson.

The year 1927 brought us a new mayor, A.B. Currey, a local barrister. This year brought the declared bankruptcy of William Cane and Sons, a real shock locally. Expenses from the huge explosion / fire and the difficulty in obtaining raw materials, along with an increase in taxes spelled the end of this business. Howard Cane immediately created a new company that would manufacture lead pencils exclusively.

The new hospital was built by re-modelling the existing Cane residence but on February 14, 1927 the structure was completely destroyed by fire. Construction resumed immediately and by October of that year, York County Hospital rose from the ashes.

Pickering College re-opened as a residential school for boys, having been closed since 1917 while undergoing restoration.

The Metropolitan radial line changed the gauge of its tracts on the Toronto to Sutton line so it could incorporate the streetcar system being used within the city of Toronto.

In 1927,  a new dam at Water would raise the level of Fairy Lake and provide an abundance of reserve water for increased fire protection.

In 1928, we had a new mayor, A.J. Davis, who was the proprietor of the Davis Tannery. Sadly, Henry S. Cane was to pass this year on Jan. 6. Cane was a dedicated public official who brought progress and prosperity to our town with so many advances secured during his time in office. I would submit that Henry Cane is most certainly in the top two mayors we have had in this town over the years.

The year 1928 brought another huge fire to our high school with the whole complex being reduced to rubble in March, damages estimated at $200,000. Students were moved to Stuart Scott School while plans were put into place to rebuild on the same site.

Council passed a law requiring all milk products sold in town to be pasteurized. A funny deposition was received at council from a local police constable touting the overwhelming success that the town’s new traffic officer was having with catching local speeders and stating that council should be very pleased with the results.

We have now reached the year 1929. This year finds the high school rebuilt and reopening Feb. 4.

Our old nemesis flooding returned to plague us again this year with a severe flood washing out the dam on Water and part of the foundation of the waterworks building to the west. The new iron bridge was completely destroyed. It is said that the water rose eight feet between Water and Timothy during the peak of the flooding. A precursor to what we would experience in 1954 with Hurricane Hazel.

We have now reached the end of another decade in our history. Some of you have suggested a change in topic for a few weeks so I will see if I can produce an article on another topic for next weekend. We will return to this story shortly, picking up the story with the 1930s and the Great Depression.

Sources: The Newmarket Era, The Newmarket Courier and the Toronto Star; The Memorable Merchants and Trades 1930 to 1950 by Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Stories of Newmarket, An Old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, has been a local historian for more than 40 years. He writes a weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with Newmarket Today, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.

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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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