Description of Historic Place
The Seaforth Heritage Conservation District is located on a small stretch of Main Street, in the Town of Seaforth, in the Municipality of Huron East. The district consists of the buildings facing Main Street, south to the CN Rail tracks, north to the Queen's Hotel and Petro Canada Gas Station along Goderich Street, and a block in depth to the east and west. The district consists of 54, 19th century commercial buildings, as well as some 19th century civic buildings. Most of the buildings were constructed, within a ten year period, between 1868 and 1878.
The district was designated, by the former Town of Seaforth (now Municipality of Huron East) in 1984, for its heritage value, under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, By-law 8-1984.
Located on Seaforth's Main Street, the district sits on a significant thoroughfare in the core of the Town of Seaforth. It is surrounded by fertile and productive agricultural lands. Because of its central location to surrounding agricultural lands and its close proximity to two transportation routes, Highway 8 and the CN railway line, the district became an important distribution hub for the agricultural products of the area.
The Seaforth Heritage Conservation District reflects the prosperity of the Town of Seaforth in the late 19th century. The first trade and commerce in the Town of Seaforth depended on its role as a distribution point for agricultural produce. By 1870, Seaforth was shipping more wheat than any other settlement in Ontario. The growth of the successful grain economy prompted the rapid expansion of the Town of Seaforth as a trade and service centre for the area. This expansion stimulated a wave of construction activity and a diversification of the economic base.
The unique quality of the district is that it was largely built within a ten year period, between 1868 and 1878. This was due to a great fire that swept through the Town of Seaforth's downtown destroying over twelve acres. This district is a testimony to the great prosperity and confidence of the town as the twelve acres were almost immediately rebuilt with fine brick commercial blocks that stand to this day.
The Seaforth Heritage Conservation District is an excellent example of late 19th century streetscapes in Ontario. It is a remarkably simple architectural composition consisting of four blocks of mainly two storey brick buildings. The streetscape is further complemented by a number of impressive civic and community buildings, including the town hall, post office, public library and opera hall.
The buildings in the Seaforth Heritage Conservation District exhibit superb craftsmanship. Each commercial block shares a common set of proportions, details and designs and yet there is a subtle and rich variety of decorative brick patterns on the individual facades.
Sources: Municipality of Huron East By-law 8-1984; Seaforth Heritage Conservation District Plan, Hill and Borgal Architects and Planners.
Character defining elements that contribute to the value of the Seaforth Heritage Conservation District include its:
- proximity to the outlying agricultural lands
- proximity to Highway 8 and the CNR rail lines
- two storey brick commercial buildings
- community and civic buildings including: the post office, town hall, public library and opera hall
- flat roofs
- decorative details including: brick frieze, brick pilasters and window lintels
- similar proportion and height of the individual buildings