Skip to content

REMEMBER THIS: Look for 'historical gems' of gabled roofs in Newmarket

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod highlights an architectural feature popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries seen on many of our heritage properties

Whether I am conducting a heritage walk, doing one of my talks or just mentioning a specific heritage property on social media, the term gabled house comes up frequently. While I know what a gabled home is, I always wanted to know more about this architectural feature so that I could provide a better reason for why this particular feature was so significant around Newmarket.

This column has provided me with the opportunity to learn something new and gain additional background detail on some of our historical gems around our town. I would have to say that the amount of research that I have had to do for this topic has been intense and very enlightening.

If we examine the list of heritage properties in the Newmarket area, we find that gabled roofs were a common architectural feature in Newmarket's historic homes and buildings, particularly during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These roofs were to be found in a variety of architectural styles around Newmarket, including the Quaker, Italianate, Gothic, and Queen Anne revival designs.

Gabled roofs were not just functional, but also served as a decorative feature, with some homes featuring detailed bargeboard, brackets and other ornamental elements on the gables.

The prevalence of gabled roofs in Newmarket's historic architecture reflects the influence of popular architectural trends and styles that prevailed during the town's early development period in the 19th century. The gabled roof was an important element that reflected the character and esthetic flavour of Newmarket's historic buildings, such as Doane House, Dales/Playter House, Robert Simpson House and William Brunton House.

Some of the key benefits of a gable roof include:

  • Good water drainage: The sloped design of a gable roof allows for excellent water drainage, as rain and snow can easily slide off the angled roof helping to prevent leaks and water damage.
  • Low cost: Gable roofs are relatively simple to design and construct compared to more complex roofing styles, making them one of the most affordable roofing options of the time.
  • Additional space: The pitched shape of gable roofs created extra space for an attic or vaulted ceilings providing more interior living space and better ventilation.
  • Versatile materials: Gable roofs can be constructed using a variety of materials like to suit different aesthetic and functional needs.
  • Simple construction: Gable roofs are considered one of the easiest roof styles to build and install, making the construction faster.
  • Natural ventilation: The larger surface area of gable roofs tends to allow for better ventilation throughout the home.

I also learned a bit about the different styles of gable roofs during my research:

  • The Box Gable Roof: This has a triangular extension at each end of the house, with the roof section boxed at the end. It is similar to a standard gable roof but distinguishes the triangular gable section more prominently.
  • Front Gable Roof: The gable is placed at the front of the house, with the front door typically located under the gable. This style is common in Colonial-style homes.
  • Cross Gable Roof: This consists of two or more gable rooflines that intersect at an angle, often with the ridges perpendicular to each other. It creates a more complex layout with potential for separate wings, larger porches, or attached garages.
  • Gable Roof with Shed Addition: An existing gable roof is extended by adding a shed roof along the ridge. This hybrid design allows for more headroom and interior space.
  • Dutch Gable Roof: A combination of a gable and hip roof, where the gable section sits on top of the hip roof. This provides more loft space and an enhanced esthetic appeal.
  • Side Gable Roof: The gable ends are on the sides of the house rather than the front or back.

Included below are the sources for this information should you be interested.

In a previous article I chronicled the work of local architect John Stokes. We see evidence throughout the region of this famous architect designing gabled houses with significant gabled roof features. Prominent examples are the Newmarket Cemetery House and Old Town Hall.

The Newmarket Cemetery House at 112 Main St. North features an "imposing Gothic revival style" with "imposing gables and massing" (New Heritage Wishlist Part 4 - M.pdf (

The Old Town Hall at 460 Botsford St. features an Italianate-style building, also designed by John T. Stokes in 1883, which features a prominent gabled roof that we can still admire today.

These two historic property designs suggest that Stokes was one of the influential architects who helped to promote the gabled architectural style we find in many of Newmarket's most prominent historic buildings.

Some other notable examples of the gabled roof style of architecture include properties designated as heritage because they feature elements of the design include:

  • The Doane House Hospice at 17100 Yonge St. at Eagle Street is a typical Quaker-style home with a pitched gable roof and inset chimneys built in 1845 by Seneca Doane and considered an important and unique example of Quaker architecture in Newmarket with a pitched gable roof.
  • The Dales/Playter House at 182 Church St. is a rare example of the picturesque Italianate style of architecture, featuring a pitched gable roof with detailed bargeboard, with an ornate gabled roof often referred to as "gingerbread" and was built in 1880.
  • The Robert Simpson House at 384 Botsford St. is an example of Gothic style with Italianate features, including a low-pitched gabled roof and projecting eaves and verges with brackets built in 1861.
  • The William Brunton House at 480 Eagle St. is a 2.5-storey wood-frame dwelling with a medium-hip roof with projecting eaves and a dormer on the front facade, in the Queen Anne revival style.
  • The Brooks Howard House at 365 Main St. North features "a symmetrical three bay façade with a gable roof" and "a dormer centred over the entrance".
  • The Newmarket Federal Building, also known as the Newmarket Post Office and The Clock Tower Inn, located at Main and Timothy streets was built between 1914 and 1915. It is a two-storey, Italianate-style structure made of concrete and steel with a red brick façade, featuring a dominant 65-foot campanile with a four-faced clock and 1,200-pound bell. The main entrance originally led to the post office, while a secondary entrance on the left side led to the customs house. The building has a variety of window sizes and shapes, as well as decorative brackets supporting the wide eaves of the hip roof.

A PDF document from the Town of Newmarket website lists some significant heritage properties, noting features like "gable roof with gable facing street" and "window in front gable" ( can learn more about the Post Office at

These examples demonstrate the variety of gabled house styles found in Newmarket's historic architecture. Gabled houses were popular among Newmarket's early settlers and our prominent residents in the 19th and early 20th centuries and represent excellent examples of the unique architecture prominent in our heritage register.

Newmarket has a rich architectural heritage dating back to the 19th century, with the additional plus that many of these historic homes and buildings still standing today for us to admire. 

Should you wish me to target another architectural style which is prevalent in our area, please email me and I shall investigate it!

Additional Sources: Doane House tops Newmarket heritage list - York Region News[PDF] Photo Building Name Property Address Legal ... - Town of NewmarketEnglish gentleman's Newmarket mansion was renowned for social ...; Stately farmhouse in Newmarket has links to Empire State Building ..

[PDF] Photo Building Name Property Address Legal ... - Town of Newmarket[PDF] Architectural and General Context - Newmarket.caDifferent Types Of Gable Roof DesignsWhat Is a Gable Roof? Styles, Types, and More - Architectural DigestWhat are gables and the benefits of gable roof? Advantages & Disadvantages of Gable Roofs365, Main Street, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada -[PDF] Walking Tour of the Historical District - eSCRIBE Published MeetingsHistory of Old Town Hall - Newmarket.caThe Newmarket Federal Building -

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 NewmarketToday, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.

Reader Feedback

About the Author: Richard MacLeod

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