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REMEMBER THIS: Newmarket's Quaker heritage preserved in Doane House

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod tells the story of the Ebenezer Doane House, which was relocated, restored and remains a well-loved abode as the Doane House Hospice

Let's look at the history of what is known as the Ebenezer Doane House, which is now the Doane House Hospice on the northwest corner of Eagle and Yonge streets.

If you have been reading my articles over the past number of years, you will recall I am an advocate for the re-purposing of historic buildings to preserve and give them new life. The Doane House Hospice is an excellent example of how this can be done, benefiting the community at large.

In 2001, through the dedicated volunteer efforts of both local individuals and corporations, this well-built historic Quaker home, once the Doane family homestead, was restored to its former glory and reborn as the Doane House Hospice just one block north of its original location.

Why was this simple two-storey building, originally built with a simple wood and plaster exterior finish, a "must save" for our heritage? It is an excellent example of a Quaker-style home and was, for more than a century, the home of generations of the Doane family. Built around 1845 by Seneca Doane, a prominent Quaker farmer, it replaced the original house, which had been built around 1808 in the area once known as Armitage.

The Newmarket heritage advisory committee wisely deemed it an important and unique example of Quaker architecture, along with the Quaker meeting house and Sharon Temple.

The Doane family settled on this lot on Yonge around 1808, having acquired 200 acres from Asa Rogers, the original land grant holder. They transferred some of their land to the local Quakers for the construction of their meeting house and burying ground, which can still be seen adjacent to the property. The family would also operate an early telephone company known as the Doane Telephone Exchange, serving the local farming community from their dwelling.

Known locally as the Seneca Doane House, it was designated both for its historical and architectural value. It was originally located just south of its current location, on the west side of Yonge, just north of Clearmeadow Boulevard, next door to the Quaker Meeting House.

The rapid development of the area seriously threatened the continued existence of the historic home, and so it was relocated to the former Eldred King Park, at the corner of Yonge and Eagle. It was designated historic in 1998.

In the 1840s, Newmarket was a bustling town, with new industry, improved roads, and established farms surrounding the village. This homestead was built circa 1845 as a home for Seneca Doane (1818-1898), a prosperous farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth (Webb) Doane (1822-1881), and had been occupied continuously since that time, primarily by members of the Doane family. Construction of this residence probably started around the time of Seneca Doane's marriage to Elizabeth Webb of King Township in 1841, and the death in 1844 of his father, William Doane.

William Doane had arrived from Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1807, purchasing 200 acres from Asa Rogers. Amazingly, the property was to stay in family hands until 1967. My kin, the Lundys, had ventured from Bucks County eight years previously and likely would have been well acquainted with the family as they were Quakers as well.

The Doane family had been members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), who had moved to the area from the United States and worshipped at the Yonge Street Quaker Meeting House. In addition to being farmers, the Doane men were skilled carpenters, having made a significant contribution to the construction of other Quaker buildings our the area, including the Yonge Street Meeting House in Newmarket and Sharon Temple in East Gwillimbury.

Let us turn our attention to the actual house. This two-storey home, built in a rectangular plan, had its original principal facade (which faced to the east) organized into three bays. Its kitchen tail, a single-storey frame in the centre back, had woodsheds attached to it. The house had wood clapboard siding, except for the walls under the front porch roof, which had been dressed in smooth ashlar-lined stucco to simulate stone.

There are three entrances to the house, each with panelled wooden doors. Wrapped around three sides of the house to protect its several entrances was a graceful veranda with a bell-cast roof supported by wooden turned posts on the wooden floor of the veranda. The ceiling of the veranda was finished with narrow boards with a beaded edge. Sometime late in the 19th century, a window in the wall of the ground floor dining room was enlarged into a bay window looking out over the veranda, with a seat along the window frame on the inside of the house. The house was lovingly restored, and a visit will allow you to fully appreciate the workmanship.

So how was the house preserved when most of the other historic properties in the area were allowed to disappear? In 2001, an agreement was reached between the hospice (formerly called Hospice Newmarket), the Town of Newmarket and the Regional Municipality of York to relocate the house, which sadly had remained vacant for a few years, to its current location and to convert it for use as a hospice serving north Aurora, Newmarket, Bradford and East Gwillimbury. Its relocation was imperative as the property had been sold to developers.

Over an 18-month period, the home was carefully transformed to its former glory as a well-built Quaker building, and today reflects again the care and quality of workmanship of the early Quaker years.

The concept of re-purposing heritage buildings seems the best way for us to save our heritage properties while giving them new life. If you have visited the property, perhaps during an open house, I am sure you will agree that the work of Doane House Hospice is particularly well suited to the warm atmosphere that permeates the house, with its original pine floors and welcoming bay window. The banister on the staircase, which takes you upstairs to the organization's offices, is the original picket-style one. Many of the windows in the house that make it so well-lit have the original glass in them.

When I last visited, the Elman W. Campbell Museum was maintaining on the premises a showcase of artifacts about the Doane family and life in those times. I find it easy to speculate that Elizabeth and Seneca Doane would have been astounded but very proud to see the purpose that their house has been put to today, given their Quaker beliefs.

The communities of Aurora and Sharon have their own Doane / Doan stories to tell, and perhaps I shall return to this early local family and their heritage in future articles.

I apologize for the quality of some of the photos attached. Photography is not my forte, obviously!

Sources: Clippings from local newspapers; The Quakers in Canada – A History by Arthur G. Dorlund; Stories of Newmarket – An Old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter; The Yonge Street Story 1793 – 1860 by F. R. Berchem

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.