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Eckhardt-McKay House

197, Main Street, Town of Markham, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1978/12/12

Of note is the Gothic gable window and droop bargeboard.; Kirsten Pries, 2008.
Facade, Eckhardt-McKay House, 2008
Featured is the sign identifying the Katherine Gormley-McKay Art Centre.; Kirsten Pries, 2008.
Art Centre Sign, Eckhardt- McKay House, 2008
Of note is the wood door with sidelights and transom.; Kirsten Pries, 2008
Front Entrance, Eckhardt-McKay House, 2008

Other Name(s)

Eckhardt-McKay House
Salem Eckhardt House
Eckhardt-McKay-Varley House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/01/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Eckhardt-McKay House is located at 197 Main Street, on the east side of the street south of Carleton Road in Unionville in the Town of Markham. The two storey board and batten, and stone art centre was constructed circa 1845-1856.

The property was designated by the Town of Markham in 1978 for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 298-78).

Heritage Value

The Eckhardt-McKay House is associated with Fred Varley, a member of the Group of Seven, and the Eckhardt family. Located at 197 Main Street, the house is situated a short walk away from the Varley Art Gallery which features the work of Fred Varley.

Philip Eckhardt was one of the first settlers in Markham. Both Andrew and Salem Eckhardt are credited with having built the house. Andrew, Unionville's first postmaster, is believed to have built a one-and-a-half-storey house along Main Street between 1845 and 1851. The first reference to a house at this location, however, is for a mortgage that is dated 1856. Salem Eckhardt was the village auctioneer, tax collector as well as a farmer and builder. The 1861 Census lists Salem and his wife Catherine as occupying a two storey frame house, most likely the current Eckhardt-McKay House. Eckhardt retained possession of the property until he died in 1902 when it passed to a succession of owners until Donald and Kathleen McKay purchased the house in 1957. Kathleen was a direct descendent of the Eckhardt family.

Fred Varley immigrated to Canada in 1912 from England and was taken in at the age of 72 in 1952 by Kathleen and Donald McKay after he had fallen seriously ill. Kathleen was also a talented artist and became Varley's prized pupil; she was also one of his favourite subjects and has been captured by him in numerous paintings. Fred Varley moved in with them and lived in the house until his death in 1969. Kathleen McKay began her collection of Varley's paintings in 1951 creating one of the finest private collections of his work and has donated more than 80 oil paintings to the Town of Markham. In 1988 the Town of Markham purchased the house and turned it into an art centre. In 1989 Kathleen McKay was presented with Markham's Achievement and Civic Recognition Award, which is the community's highest honour. The Town built the Varley Art Gallery a short walk away at the corner of Carlton Road and Main Street.

The Eckhardt-McKay House is a good representation of Vernacular Gothic style and utilises the bank house construction style as illustrated by the drop from two storeys to one storey at the rear. The house is three-quarters clad in vertical board and batten and one-quarter clad in coarse stone. Typical of the Gothic style, the house has a steeply pitched gable roof with droop bargeboard. The Gothic gable window in the upper storey of the facade is sharply pointed with its lower register divided into twelve panes of glass. The entrance is located in the centre of the facade with plain moulded trim, flush sidelights and a mullioned transom.

Sources: Town of Markham By-Law 298-78; Art Centre & Varley Studio Pamphlet; Identification Report, Town of Markham; “A.J. Casson visits historic home of peer, Fred Varley”, The Unionville Standard Times 11.1. Town of Markham; Eckardt/McKay-Varley House 197 Main St., Unionville Historical Background.

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Eckhardt-McKay House include its:
- basement art studio
- two storey board and batten, and stone exterior
- sharply pitched gable roof
- droop bargeboard
- six over six windows with entablatures and shutters
- Gothic gable window divided into twelve panes of glass
- centred single leaf, wood door surrounded by plain moulded trim, flush sidelights and mullioned transom
- flat roof porch supported by wood columns and layered cornice with frieze
- pointed double hung sash windows on south elevation
- brick multi stacked interior chimney
- interior butternut woodwork
- gable ends have semi-circular louvered window formations of wood
- sunroom with pointed-arched windows at the south elevation




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (ON)

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1957/01/01 to 1988/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts

Function - Category and Type


Public Art or Furnishings


Single Dwelling

Architect / Designer



Andrew Eckhardt/Salem Eckhardt

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Town of Markham Planning and Urban Design 101 Town Centre Boulevard Markham, Ontario L3R9W3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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