Another bright sunny summer day and this time it is Unionville, the historic village in Markham, 33 km north east from Toronto. The quintessential European Village, founded in 1794, owes its existence to the mills in the early 1840s. In fact the name is derived from Ira White’s Union Mills. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unionville,_Ontario
The centerpiece of this historic village is the Main Street, originally a lane from the village’s first grist mill, studded with 19th century homes, pubs, restaurants, antique gift shops, art galleries, a secluded public library and not-to-miss the Millennium Bandstand that hosts celebrations and music programs. A few minutes later I felt something was slightly skewed. The structures are European but the demographics is mix, Caucasian and Asian, and after a few seconds we are in tune with the new Canada. Immigrant waves have not changed the appearance and as we walk around we find that the Village has preserved its antiquity.
One cannot avoid the historicity of the famous city landmarks.
The Varley Art Gallery at north end of the commercial Main Street was started with contributions from Mrs. McKay for ‘Group of Seven’ artist Fred Varley who lived in her home on Main Street. His paintings are now part of the Art Gallery collection while the residence is used for small art shows.
The Stiver Mill… located near the railway tracks on Main Street Unionville, the 1916 constructed Stiver Mill was a grain mill selling grains, seed and feed along with cement, coal and salt. The mill was founded by Bob Stiver, a descendent of Stiver family, part of the wave of German migrants brought to Canada via New York by William Berczy in 1794. Eckardt-Stiver House on 1829 Main Street, Unionville hosts the annual jazz and Celtic festivals, as well as live music in the new bandstand in the summer.The Mill site was acquired in 1993 by the Town of Markham and closed from 2013-2014. It is now a community Center and a Farmers’ Market held every summer Sunday in the premises. It was a treat to purchase fresh vegetables, honey and home made Ghee ( clarified butter). The ghee was from the stall of a South East Asian couple reminding us of home.
There are other interesting structures, including the 1879 built Congregational Church on 149 Main Street. The Church was constructed on land donated by the Braithwaite Family and designed by E.J. Lennox of Toronto’s Old City Hall(1889), the King Edward Hotel(1902) and Casa Loma(1914) fame. In 1894 the Church changed hands from the Presbyterians who used it until 1925, then passed it on to the non – concurrent Presbyterians who later sold it to the Township of Markham. In 1949, the building was acquired by the Unionville and District Veterans’ Association. After almost 50 years of use, they donated the building to the Unionville Home Society in 1998 to aid in their work with local senior citizens.
A piece of celluloid fame… Unionville was the stand-in fictional Connecticut town Stars Hollow during the first season of Gilmore Girls. There were other movie shoots but none I am familiar with.
The Toogood Pond: Walking paths meander through conservation lands connecting directly to village roads and one of the prominent ones is the path around Toogood Pond the favorite haunt of Canada Geese, ducks, fish, and other wildlife. Surrounding the pond are many beautiful walkways, park benches and picnic tables. There is a man-made dam at the south-east end that includes a waterfall. The Pond, named after the Toogood family, (1840s) was called Willow Pond or Lake in early 20th century. The summer cottages on North Main Street, previous residences of mill workers, were later converted into million dollar homes.
A few hours spent in the cool environs of the Pond and it is easy to visualize the green welcoming spaces playing host to new comers to this country down centuries.