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REMEMBER THIS: Hospital expansion, mall part of '70s construction boom

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his timeline series with highlights of Newmarket from 1973 to 1974

Our examination of Newmarket’s historical timeline continues with the year 1973, with our population rising to 21,643.

There is excitement at the Parkside Tabernacle as they have just paid off their mortgage and held a mortgage burning party to celebrate. The church was built in 1960, but the congregation was formed in 1956.

Mayor Robert Forhan and regional councillor Raymond Twinney had somehow managed to have themselves appointed to six local region committees.  

On June 23, 1973, the new civic arena opened, named for Francis Hollingsworth, a school teacher who had dedicated much of his life to providing sports and recreational activities to the children of Newmarket. DelZotto Homes had built the arena at the cost of about $350,000 and then turned it over to the town.

Artist Willis Romanov began the year on a profitable footing when it was announced that Leonid Brezhnev, Sophia Loren and Christopher Plummer all purchased works by Romanov. His studio was located at 48 Main St. over the offices of Smith and Milne, architects. The future for the artist looked promising.

The Newmarket Lions amphitheatre officially reopened on June 12, having been expanded and renovated.

The Conservation Authority is still planning to install an aeration pump and fountain in Fairy Lake. Gates were installed at the entrance to the park to hopefully eliminate the many after-hours events.

It was in June that three local educators, who have served our schools for over 75 years, retired. Feted at a special celebration were Prince Charles principal Henderson King, along with Elsie Czernick and Illa Haines. Between Czernick and Haines, they had served in the local school system for over 75 years. In my oral history interview program, I was often reminded of what exceptional teachers and mentors the two ladies were.

Big news when it was announced that our council would now meet in the air-conditioned regional building, having moved from the Old Town Hall.  

The three-pod pavilion at Fairy Lake was officially opened June 3, 1973. This pavilion was sponsored by the local Rotarians.

The municipal office on Main Street was to get an extension, as announced in June, at a cost estimated to be $150,000. The extension would add a three-storey, 6,500-square-foot wing at the back of the building. The rest of the building was to be restored to its 19th-century elegance.

The push was on in August for a permanent pedestrian mall in downtown Newmarket. 

Forty-one Main Street merchants petitioned council to turn the three blocks from Park Avenue to Water Street into a permanent mall. Frank Hempen presented the petition to the council, stating that the 41 merchants represented 80 to 90 per cent of the merchants on this stretch. Another re-incarnation of a ‘Main Street Plan,' with the same result, sadly.

Goodbye Sousa, the National Film Board’s 17-minute documentary on our own Newmarket Citizens Band, premiered in August 1973. A premier party was hosted by the town, with about 200 local celebs attending. 

The Penn Avenue Parkette was completed and officially opened in September at the cost of $1,000. The developer, Jonbar Construction, contributed $597 toward the cause.

The community started to notice a buzz around York County Hospital as the first evidence of the planned $15-million addition was being shown. Expected to be completed by 1976, they were busy moving five large houses in preparation, quite the show.

In October, the region released estimates for local population growth, with Newmarket having an expected population of 44,000, while Aurora sat at 30,000. 

Employment opportunities were expected to triple if the plan was instituted. There was no real plan for infrastructure, as I recall. In 1973, it was reported that 49 per cent of the local workforce was female, 43 per cent in Aurora, in case you wondered.

The official opening ceremonies were held for the new Quaker Pool on William Roe in November. You will recall that Schickedanz Developments built the facility and turned the keys over to the town. 

Former mayor Joseph Vale passed away Nov. 2, 1973, and the town mourned. Vale had served not only as mayor but as a councillor and deputy reeve, 19 years in total. 

Construction was booming around Newmarket in 1973, with estimates ranging as high as $15 million in total. Some of the larger projects were the Reininger Metal factory, the expansion of York County Hospital and the Martin Nursing Home.

A new bylaw regulating the taxi business in Newmarket was passed in December 1973. The bylaw did not put a limit on the number of taxi licences or require 24-hour service, but it did outline what facilities a firm must have in order to qualify as a taxi.

We seemed to transition into 1974 without any fuss. Our population had grown again, now sitting at 22,736.

Newmarket’s building boom continued into 1974, with Upper Canada Mall being built, scheduled for completion in May. The sewage plant was now completely built, and a 124-unit apartment building was beginning to rise on the south side of Davis, just west of Lorne Avenue.

Plans were announced by council for a $300,000 community centre and park, scheduled to be completed in October of that year. Two plazas were given the go-ahead, one at Scott and Eagle Street with seven stores and one five-unit plaza at Yonge and Davis.

Building permits were granted for the 203 homes in the Valley of the Cedars Subdivision. The federal government had contracted to build new postal facilities in Newmarket and a new provincial courthouse at Eagle and Yonge, the former location of the Industrial Home. A $150,000 reno of the Old Town Hall was underway, and a new hotel/motel was being built across from the mall.  

Newmarket added two full-time firemen to the department and ordered a new fire truck. The permanent pedestrian mall on Main Street was voted down in January 1974.

Along with the NFB’s Goodbye Sousa, CBC featured downtown Newmarket for its comedy feature Delilah. Do you remember that Newmarket also received an application for a new radio station in 1974?

Plans for the new community centre downtown were heating up in January. Along with the community centre, there would be a tennis complex, parking, and baseball diamonds. I do not remember the baseball diamonds myself.

The town also purchased the old Rusto’s fruit warehouse that year. The town decided to switch monitoring of parking meters over to the regional police, putting poor Joe Tunney out of a job. An article in the paper claimed that Tunney was giving out too many tickets!

Councillor Twinney predicted that local taxes would fall again that year, the fourth in a row.

In March 1974, it was announced that Tom Kirk Night would be revived after 20 years by the town on March 29 to be held at the Hollingsworth arena. Named after a popular former police chief, it offered a free night of skating, games, and competitions for all elementary students in Newmarket.

Sad news around town as George Haskett, longtime sports editor of the local paper and Newmarket resident, passed away on April 7, 1974. You will note that the town park on Millard Avenue near Queen Street carries his name.

The doors to Upper Canada were opened on May 1, 1974, at precisely 9:30 a.m. to great local anticipation. The initial phase boasted parking for 2,500 cars and a workforce of over 700 locals. Initially, it featured Zellers, Simpson-Sears, and three restaurants, a total of 55 stores and services in total.

On June 21, 1974, a farmers market opened in the memorial arena. It was the first time in over a quarter of a century and would house 20 booths and be open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That first day, the market is said to have drawn over 2,000 shoppers.

The issue surrounding the ownership of Lions Park was solved in July 1974 when the town retained ownership, and the Lions Club was officially named trustees. The surrounding investigation had proven to be an intriguing story indeed.

In July 1974, the Newmarket Historical Society was officially sanctioned by council. The initial committee consisted of Doris Blair, Henry Vandenberg, Terry Carter, Robert Holden, Illa Haines and Elizabeth Campbell.

In August, the provincial court in the Old Town Hall was under fire by the judiciary as the building leaked, and there was graffiti throughout the building, prompting Judge Claire Morrison to call it a ‘pig pen’ and an embarrassment to the court system. Plans are underway for a new court at Eagle and Yonge, but it would not open until November 1978.

The Fairgrounds was scheduled to be updated with a major new baseball facility with lighting at the cost of $55,000, completion date of spring 1975.

In October 1974, the farmers market moved into a new winter home in the basement of Trinity United Church. There were 20 stalls, and the first day, Oct. 4, boasted a pretty good crowd. If the attendance is not good, then the market would only be open from spring to fall.

In October, the town took over the former Evan’s Fuel facility to act as a works facility.

In November, the topic of vandalism in parks was dominating the news with a multitude of reports of damage within a one-week period. Main Street merchant windows were being smashed, along with car windows in town parking lots and facilities damaged.

The Queen Street bridge had been under construction for quite a while, and finally, on Nov. 25, 1974, it reopened. This was supposed to have been part of the master plan to divert traffic from Main and open a pedestrian shopping mall.

The new community centre opened to much fanfare Dec. 7, 1974, with a $2 per head dance being held, which was to draw over 300 participants.

In December 1974, the library approached council to request $140,000 to construct a portable building to serve as an annex to the library.

It was reported that as of December 1974, there were 374 businesses registered in Newmarket. 

With that, we now close the books on the year 1974. Join me next when we pick up the story up with the year 1975.

Sources: Clippings from The Newmarket Era and The Newmarket CourierThe Memorable Merchants and Trades 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.