96 Main Street North
Old Town Hall
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Old Town Hall is located at 96 Main Street North, on the west side of Main Street North in the Town of Markham. The two storey coral brick commercial building was constructed in 1881.
The property was designated by the Town of Markham in 1985 for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 151-85).
The Old Town Hall reflects the political and social development of the Town of Markham. It was an ambitious project at the time given the size of the building and limited population. Even the lowest tender received for the construction of the Town Hall was almost half of the total tax levy of the Village. Construction finally became possible with monetary assistance from the County, the Railroad, the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Markham Masonic Lodge. The tender was awarded to local builder John Wilson. The chief mason was Joseph Sampson and it is believed that the brick came from the nearby Snowball Brickyard on McCowan Road. Construction was finally finished in 1881 and the first council meeting held in the new Town Hall was on January 16, 1882.
From the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, the Old Town Hall was home to many community organizations and acted as the centre of activity for the Town of Markham. The basement was originally home to the Council Chambers and the Clerk's Office on the south side and a holding jail on the north side. In the 1890s a pool hall was also located in the basement and run by James Gleeson, the Village Fire Chief. The first storey had a large auditorium with a stage at the west end. In 1892 Pauline Johnson, a famous First Nations poet, gave a performance in the auditorium, and in the 1930s the famous “Dumbells” musical troupe performed on the hall stage. The second storey was home to the Masonic order on the south side and the Society of Oddfellows on the north.
In 1946 the building was sold to Samuel Fingold of the Roxy Theatre Chain. To accommodate the movie theatre, major physical changes were made. The auditorium floor and staircase were removed, the basement was infilled to provide a concession area, and the facade was plastered over. Fingold opened the “Towne Cinema” in 1947 and provided entertainment for the community until circa 1980. The building is currently home to the Harry James Financial Group.
The Old Town Hall is a good representation of a municipal government building. It is a two storey rectangular house, four bays wide and five bays deep. Italianate details are evident in the dominant cornice line and arched windows. The building is constructed in coral brick in a stretcher bond with yellow brick detailing. The window peaks are marked by a segmental arch of raised, radiating brick voussoirs. The voussoirs are joined by a projecting stringcourse of yellow brick. One of its distinguishing features is the construction of the second floor. There are no interior columns or partitions supporting this storey or the roof. The central partition though the second floor is a heavy timber truss resting on the exterior walls providing the necessary support for the storey. This is a unique engineering feat even by today's standards.
Source: Town of Markham By-Law 151-85
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Old Town Hall include its:
- two storey coral brick exterior
- shed roof
- entrance with semi-circular fanlight and voussoirs of yellow brick
- yellow brick detailing in voussoirs and joining string courses
- decorated cornice
- heavy timber truss supporting second storey and roof
- round headed windows
- reconstructed brick chimneys
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
- Governing Canada
- Politics and Political Processes
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
- Town or City Hall
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Town of Markham
Planning and Urban Design Department
101 Town Centre Boulevard
Cross-Reference to Collection