Join the Society Today!

Help support the work of the Society and take advantage of the benefits of membership. Simply print and complete our membership form (pdf). Bring the completed form to a meeting or mail with payment to:

Richmond Hill Historical Society
P. O. Box 61527, 9350 Yonge Street
Richmond Hill, ON L4C 0C9

Membership Fees by e-Transfer

Did you know that you can pay your RHHS membership via e-transfer? You will need our email address – r.hillhistsoc at, and it would be really helpful to include information about the year the dues are for, as well as your address, email address and telephone number – all information that will help us stay in touch.

Benefits of Membership

  • Attend 8 public meetings with guest speakers
  • Enjoy two social evening meetings with entertainment
  • Learn about the history of Richmond Hill and support it’s preservation
  • Receive RHHS newsletters delivered directly to you
  • Have the right to vote at the Annual General Meeting (January), and the right to hold office on the Executive Committee as a Director
  • Keeping abreast of current events through representatives of the Society who report on local City of Richmond Hill heritage initiatives.

and of course…

Join in a society to meet people who enjoy the same interests as yourself!


Individual $25
This membership provides you with all the benefits of the Society

Family $40 (2 adults and 2 children)
Only one copy of the mailings is sent to the Family; otherwise Family members have the same privileges as an Individual.

Sixty-Eight Years of Artificial Ice in Richmond Hill

Black and white photograph of the arena at Church Street and Lorne Avenue as it appeared in the 1950s. (photograph courtesy Gerry Roy/Richmond Hill Public Library from Later Days in Richmond Hill: A Portrait of the Community from 1930-1999 by Marney Beck Robinson and Joan Clark)
The arena at Church Street and Lorne Avenue as it appeared in the 1950s. (photograph courtesy Gerry Roy/Richmond Hill Public Library from Later Days in Richmond Hill: A Portrait of the Community from 1930-1999 by Marney Beck Robinson and Joan Clark)

March 19 commemorates 68 years since the official unveiling of artificial ice at the Richmond Hill Arena. The arena, originally built in 1923, frequently had problems with its natural ice surface resulting in many disappointments for residents eager to skate. In fact, in his Sports column in the Richmond Hill Liberal of April 29, 1954, Bill Ellis wrote:

That “No Skating” sign operates on a hinge with a sign that says “Skating.” The affair is locked by a padlock in either position. You might as well lock the “No Skating” portion in place and throw away the key because that’s what it reads 99 and 44/100 per cent of the time.”

Enter the Richmond Hill Arena Association!

In 1954, this not-for-profit organization was formed, whose primary mandate was to raise funds to outfit the arena with artificial ice. The community members that originally spearheaded this effort included: Craig Bowden, Jack Hart, Bill Savage, Alec Clarke, Al White, Jack Hollowell, Bill Gilchrist, Ralph Paris, Morley Hall, Alex Baird, Elgin Barrow, Cec Mabley, Walt Smith, Harry Bawden, Art Gibson, Morley Williams, Floyd Pratt, Norm Todd and Bill Ellis. The group formed subcommittees, including a Campaign Committee led by Ralph Paris and a Technical Committee led by Alex Baird.

Black and white photograph of Bill Ellis, Elgin Barrow, Bill Hall, Walter Smith and Hugh Mackay during the construction. (RHPL, Burt Hunt fonds, 2012.5.1)
Bill Ellis, Elgin Barrow, Bill Hall, Walter Smith and Hugh Mackay during the construction. (Richmond Hill Public Library, Bert Hunt fonds, 2012.5.1)

On May 10, 1954, the Arena Association launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign. They were quickly helped along by a quick first donation of $1,000 by Bing Lew, owner of the Town Inn and one of our community’s most notable philanthropists. He would later fund the building of a pool at the Loyal True Blue and Orange Home on Yonge Street, near Elgin Mills. These are just two of many contributions that Mr. Lew made, often to the benefit of local children.

While the campaign did not realize its $50,000 goal, the Association was ultimately successful in bringing artificial ice to the arena. Their Fall campaign in 1954 brought in a respectable $24,000 and saw membership in the Association total approximately 600.

In February 1955, Walter Smith and Elgin Barrow signed a 15-year lease on the arena for $1 per year.

Then, on March 19, 1955, a record-breaking crowd of 1,500 people, paid to attend the official opening of the new ice surface. Municipal and Provincial representatives attended the event, officially opened by “Timmy” of the Easter Seals Campaign. Jack Passmore served as master of ceremonies with the Town represented by Reeve W. J. Taylor.

A full program of activities were showcased at the opening, including solo figure skating performances by Richmond Hill’s own Mary MacKay and later Louis Stong. Ede Butlin called a square dance on the ice, with additional performances given by members of the Toronto and Unionville Skating Clubs. The local association was assisted in the preparation of the ice by Bert Kent, the icemaker for the Toronto Skating Club.

Not surprisingly, the introduction of a more reliable ice surface saw the popularity of skating and organized hockey grow, beginning in the mid-1950s. The arena’s importance to the community grew immensely and has seen many important events over the past 68 years of artificial ice, including the old annual midget hockey tournament. Organized by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 375, this hallmark tournament began in 1968 and saw many future NHL stars hit that artificial ice.

So as you lace up your skates for a turn around the ice at the Elgin Barrow Arena, think back with appreciation to those members of our community who worked so tirelessly and hard to make the arena such an important part of Richmond Hill’s history and put the Skating/No Skating sign onto the trash heap for good.

Further Reading:

And Away We Go” Sports column by Bill Ellis, Richmond Hill Liberal, 15 April 1954, p. 6

‘Artificial Ice in 1954’ Motto as Campaign Begins” by Bill Ellis, Richmond Hill Liberal, 20 May 1954, p. 3

First $1,000 Cheque Received for Artificial Ice CampaignRichmond Hill Liberal, 20 May 1954, p. 3

No Money – No Ice” Richmond Hill Liberal, 24 June 1954, p. 2

Official Opening Arena March 19th: Public Skating for EveryoneRichmond Hill Liberal, 3 March 1955, p. 1

‘Timmy’ to Officially Open Installation Artificial Ice in Richmond Hill Arena March 19Richmond Hill Liberal, 10 March 1955, p. 1

Arena OpeningRichmond Hill Liberal, 17 March 1955, p. 2

Record Crowd at Arena OpeningRichmond Hill Liberal, 24 March 1955, p. 1

William McDerment, MBE, Manager Richmond Hill ArenaRichmond Hill Liberal, 22 September 1955, p. 9

Richmond Hill Public Library has digitized the local newspapers from 1857-1979 and they can be searched and browsed for free by visiting

Next Meeting: A Brief Introduction to the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

The Richmond Hill Historical Society is pleased to welcome Doreen Coyne from the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society as the guest speaker at our upcoming meeting on March 20, 2023 at 7:30 pm. The meeting will be held in Wallace Hall at the Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church at 10066 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill. All are welcome to attend.

During this presentation, Doreen will give you a bit of the history of the Society and an overview of the volunteer effort that the members accomplish each year.  All of which aim to educate and encourage the beautification of our community and neighbourhoods with plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Bring a friend or two! The guest fee is only $5.00.

The Way Freight And Related Memories

by Jim Monkman; originally published in Heritage on the Hill, the newsletter of the Richmond Hill Historical Society of March/April 2010.

The Richmond Hill Historical Society was saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Monkman. Jim supported any and all initiatives regarding history and heritage in Richmond Hill and was always willing to lend a helping hand. He was a member of the Society for many years and served as President. Along with his wife Avonelle, they were dedicated to the preservation of the history of our community.

As part of our 50th Anniversary, as we look back at our own history, we thought it appropriate to share one of Jim’s many contributions to our newsletter from 2010.

Recently, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with John Flood, an old friend. We are both no longer young, indeed, we are well past “middle aged” and if we are not discussing our ailments our conversation is probably about “old times” That particular day we were talking about the era when Richmond Hill was known for the roses grown in the three greenhouses.

The rose growing industry moved from the Bedford Park – Lawrence Avenue area of old North Toronto about 1915 when real estate in that area was increasing in value. Four rose growing greenhouses relocated to Richmond Hill. Mr. Lawrence bought a large acreage bounded by Roseview Avenue, the Railroad Tracks, Markham Road (Major MacKenzie) and Church Street. He built his home, number 114 Roseview, at the corner of Roseview and Pugsley and his greenhouses on Roseview Avenue between his house and the railroad tracks. Harold Mills’ home, number 114 Centre Street East, was built on the north side of Centre Street East and his greenhouses on the west side of Pugsley, north of Centre Street. The Dunlop house was on the north side of what is now Dunlop Street, east of Church Street and his greenhouses ran east from Pugsley to the railroad property. I can’t remember the name of the man who established the fourth rose growing business. It was known as Bedford Park Greenhouse and was at the east end of Bedford Park Rd and east of Pugsley. The Dunlop Greenhouses were later sold to H. J. Mills, which made it the largest greenhouse business in the village

The rose growing business was the main employer in the Village. Men were needed to look after the rose plants, water them and cut the flowers as they grew. The flowers had to be graded and packaged for shipment, some by truck to Toronto and others by train to cities and towns across Canada. Men were also needed to maintain the glass buildings and replace the soil and fertilizer in the raised benches in which the roses were grown. Roses require a lot of heat and stationery engineers were employed to run the high-pressure steam boilers required to heat the greenhouses in our cold climate.

As John and I recalled these long gone days, I mentioned that the coal, which heated the greenhouses, was brought in by the train carload. Our memories and conversation turned to the part that railroad and trains used to play in our lives before the trucking and airline industry took over a lot of their business.

Richmond Hill railway station was a busy place. A great deal of materials arrived by train including coal and lumber.

Spur lines ran from the main railroad track to each of the greenhouse so that the car of coal could be delivered virtually to the boiler room door. John then recalled that another spur line ran to Johnnie Burr’s Mill and Jones coal yard which were located on the east side of Yonge Street almost opposite Levendale. Immediately, my memory took me back through the years to a bright sunny fall day in 1944.

I was fourteen years old, a student in grade 10 in the High School on Wright Street. We lived on Roseview Avenue and I always went home for lunch. This particular day, I didn’t really want to get back to school in time for the first period. I can’t recall why but as I left home I thought I would drop by the Railroad Station first to see if any of my compatriots who felt the same way would be there. The railway station was a gathering place for many of us boys and Y. B. Tracy, the station agent, kept a supply of sports equipment for our use. Not of course when we were supposed to be in school. This day I would keep out of sight of his office. The station was situated at the foot of Centre Street East. It was a fairly big property on which were the Station building, which contained the Station Agent’s Office, a waiting room for passengers and living quarters for the Agent’s family. A plank platform ran between the building and the main set of tracks north to the freight shed and the big water tank. The steam engines usually needed to fill up their tanks after pulling a load of box or passenger cars uphill from downtown Toronto. Water was pumped from a dam the railroad had built on the nearby tributary of the Rouge River to keep this big tank full.

East of the main line was a “siding” which a northbound train could switch onto and wait to allow a fast south bound passenger train to pass. West of the station buildings was the station work yard where spur lines ran to the greenhouses and coal yards.

A work train called a Way Freight would come once or twice a week to deliver full cars of coal or lumber etc and take away empty ones. The Way Freight would call at stations between Toronto’s marshalling yard and other stations on the line to do this. The next large marshalling yard was at Allendale adjacent to Barrie.

There wasn’t anyone at our usual meeting spot but the Way Freight was hooking onto an empty hopper car on I. D. Ramer’s coal yard siding. I stopped to watch and to my surprise the engineer called down to me from the cab of the steam engine “ Would you like to come for a ride. We have to pick up a car at Jones’ Coal Yard”. I leaned my bike against a nearby shed and hastily climbed up into the cab.

What a thrill. I had never dreamed of having such an opportunity. I told the Engineer and the Fireman my name and thanked them for letting me accompany them. Then, I carefully looked around.

The engineer sat on the right hand side of the cab and the fireman on the left. There were some gauges, which I guessed were showing such things as the water level in the tank above the firebox, the steam pressure, the air pressure for the train’s braking system etc. At the rear was a coal tender containing the coal to heat the water for the steam. The throttle to make the train move was by the engineer’s hand and there were some levers beside him which I assumed were to control the direction the engine would travel, the air brakes etc.

The engineer proceeded to move the train away from Ramer’s building and we travelled backwards to where there was a switch which took us onto the main spur line and then over to another switch which directed us onto the tracks which went westward to Burr’s Mill and Jones’ coal yard.

The fireman stepped on the treadle in the floor in front of the firebox. This opened the firebox door. He looked in and then motioned me to stand aside a bit and with a big coal shovel in his hand positioned himself so that he was facing the left side of the cab. Then swinging his body to the left toward the coal tender he scooped up a shovel full of coal and in one continuous motion he swung around on his left foot while raising the shovel of coal and simultaneously stepping down on the treadle with his right foot which immediately opened the door of the fire box and as he completed his swinging turn the coal flew off the shovel into the fire. He lifted his right foot off the treadle causing the fire box door to close, swung back around on his left foot to the coal tender his shovel coming down to the floor scooping up another load of coal which he lifted up and repeated his previous action until he was satisfied no more coal was needed. He did this so easily and gracefully it was as rhythmic as if he had been accompanied by music. I never forgot how he did such a backbreaking job so gracefully that it looked as if he was dancing to music and enjoying it.

In a couple of years, I had a summer job working in John Sheardown’s coal yard. I remembered that fireman’s action and found that if, when I was unloading a load of coal from the truck I could imitate that fireman’s swinging motion the work was so much easier.

How our world has changed. As well as the roses being grown in Richmond Hill there were other large rose growing business, Dale’s in Brampton and Miller’s in Concord. Now the roses we buy for our wives are flown in from South America. Coal, once used to heat the greenhouses and our homes and factories is seldom if ever seen. The coal yards have been replaced by oil trucks and gas lines. The Grist Mills, also as farmers have their own tractor powered equipment to turn their oats into food for their cows. The spur rail lines are long gone and the railway station rests at Richmond Green. And those splendid steam locomotives with their lonesome whistles which warned of their approach are very few in number and used only to give entertaining rides on long abandoned railway lines.

Curtain Club Fundraiser for the Society

Poster image for the historic drama Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott by Beverley Cooper, March 24 to April 9, 2023

Thanks to the generosity of Richmond Hill’s Curtain Club Theatre, the Society is participating in a fundraising night with the play Innocence Lost, an historic drama about Steven Truscott, on the evening of Thursday, March 23rd; doors open at 7:15 pm, show begins at 8:00 pm [showtime, including intermission is 2.5 hours].

Tickets are only $20, with all proceeds going to the Richmond Hill Historical Society. To reserve your ticket, please contact Andrea Kulesh by phone at 905.884.2789 or by email at andrea-kulesh @

About the Play

In 1959, 12 year old Lynne Harper was found dead in a farm woodlot near Clinton, Ontario.  A few months later her classmate, 14 year old Steven Truscott, was convicted of the murder in a case that was later considered one of Canada’s most notorious wrongful convictions.

Directed by Sergio Calderon

Produced by Sharon Dykstra and Joan Burrows

Starring: Coral Benzie, Tamika Poetzsch, Peter Shipston, Kirsty Campbell, David Henderson, Ruby Jang, Brian Fukuzawa, Eshan Mathur, Sydney Bartlett, Devika Mathur

Maple Lions Club Celebrates 75 Years

Black and white photograph of Frank Robson (driving), Bruce Murchison (Lion member) and Matt Smith (youth) in a parade in Richmond Hill.
Frank Robson (driving), Bruce Murchison (Lion member) and Matt Smith (youth) in a parade in Richmond Hill.

This year the Maple Lions Club celebrates their 75th anniversary. March 11th, 1948 was their first official meeting, with the Club being sponsored by the Richmond Hill Lions Club.

The first major event that was held was a “Homecoming” that saw residents come back to visit their former town. This year on April 15th there will be a second “Homecoming”. If you remember Maple when there were three mills, one stoplight and no high school – then you will enjoy this event.

The reunion takes place from 3-7 pm in the Maple Lions Memorial Arena. Tickets are $25 and are available through Eventbrite or contacting David Cook at cookca @

All proceeds go to the Maple Lions Club.