President’s Message (September 2021)

As promised, this is a note to remind you about our upcoming regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 29th, 2021, at 7:30 PM. This is our first meeting since June, and as much as I would have preferred an in-person meeting, our view is that it’s just not time for that yet. We’ll keep you posted about the possibility of in-person meetings, but, in the meantime, I think we’ve learned that Zoom meetings work. We’ve been able to continue to arrange for interesting speakers, and the meeting on Sept. 20th is no exception. Our Programming Director, Kevin Dark, has arranged to have Mr. Wayne Morgan, President of Community Heritage Ontario, speak to us about “Heritage Conservation in York Region – A Personal Journey.” Anyone guests wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

In my last message, I also referenced the Fall 2021 Richmond Hill Speakers Series. They have a series of 6 excellent speakers lined up beginning with Nina Munteanu on September 23rd, who will be speaking about “….water and what it means to us.” I’d like to encourage you to check the Speaker Series out. You can find more information at Fall 2021 Richmond Hill Speaker Series: OnRichmondHill.

I’m reluctant to raise the issue of Membership dues, but it has been a confusing issue as we’ve been trying to cope with the restrictions Covid-19 has placed on our ability to conduct normal business. As I noted above, I’m pleased that we have been able to take advantage of Zoom technology (many thanks, Marj) to keep our meetings going, even if we have to forgo the pleasures of mingling and refreshments. I also have to note, though, that most of our expenses continue: honoraria for speakers, insurance, P.O. Box rental, website costs, and more. Thankfully, the church has been very helpful by letting us off the hook for rent. We do need Membership revenues, though to keep us going.

It will be really important, then, if members could arrange to pay their 2022 dues, starting now. We’re hoping that, by Jan. 1, 2022, the bulk of our memberships will be up-to-date and we can prepare a new and current membership roster. Just to remind you, our fees have not changed. A single membership is $25.00 and a family membership is $40.00. Payment can be by cash, though we’re not expecting that to happen until we can finally meet face-to-face. Until then, of course you can pay by cheque, and the easiest way is to make the cheque payable to the Richmond Hill Historical Society (see or Membership page). Finally, you can pay by e-transfer directly to our account with TD Bank. You will need our email address to do this – r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com. I know that many of you successfully did this for your 2021 fees.

Finally, I mentioned in my last message that we’re beginning to think about projects that we can undertake to help Richmond Hill celebrate its 150th anniversary. Two projects that I can tell you a bit about are, first – the collection of all of our Liberal articles over the last few years into one digital archive which we would make available through our website and perhaps other digital locations. We are also looking into a series of similar articles that were published some years ago, as well as wondering how we could make a series of seniors’ interviews conducted by Bert Hunt a few years ago more readily available. Secondly, we’ve begun to explore the notion of a Heritage Summit in 2023 that would bring heritage supporters, developers, planners and other officials, homeowners and interested citizens together for a day to discuss the state of heritage resources in Richmond Hill.

We’ll keep you posted on these projects and others that may arise as more planning takes place. As I mentioned in my last message, any thoughts you might have about this celebration would be appreciated.

That’s more than enough for now. I’ll send out a reminder about the Sept. 20th meeting a day in advance.

I hope to see you there.

Many thanks

Jim.

President’s Message (June 2021)

Well, here it is the middle of June, and we should be talking about arrangements for our annual Strawberry Social. I guess we’re in the same boat as we were last year at this time – maybe next year! This time, though, it looks like next year may actually be possible. With the vaccination roll-out working away and more and more people getting their first shot, and even their second shot, and reopening starting to kick in, its actually possible to start thinking about this pandemic being behind us – though I do think some restrictions will be with us for quite awhile yet.. I’m certainly happy to report that both Marion and I got our second shots last week.

Getting back to our June meeting, it is scheduled for Monday, June 21st at 7:30 PM. I’m really looking forward to our speaker this month – it is Mr. Trevor Parkins-Sciberras, and he will be talking to us about “Railcar Restoration,” and I’m sure we will learn a lot about the railcars that were regular visitors to Richmond Hill in years past. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at gmail.com.

This meeting will be our last get-together until September, and I just don’t know at this point what position we will be in by then. I’ve heard very little about when large-ish indoor gatherings will be permitted again, and even if that kind of restriction is lifted, I think we’ll be canvassing our membership to see just how comfortable people will be to return to Wallace Hall. We’ll simply have to play things by ear, and be ready to continue with Zoom meetings for a while longer.

I’ve mentioned membership fees several times over the last few months, and I’m pleased that many members have renewed their membership, either by e-transfer or cheque. I also know that others have opted to simply roll their 2020 membership over to 2021, an option that we were happy to offer. I expect that, in September, the Executive will be reviewing the status of our membership, and discussing how to rationalize the situation as we move through the fall of 2021.

Thanks for your attention. I’ll send out a reminder before the meeting – and hope to see you there.

May marks 25 years since Richmond Hill’s final Spring Fair

City’s rapid growth meant interest in agriculture waned, writes Mary Jane Celsie

Mary Jane Celsie
Richmond Hill Liberal

Published in the Richmond Hill Liberal, Thursday, May 6, 2021

A poster for the Richmond Hill Agricultural Society’s Spring Fair in 1852. This month marks the 25th anniversary since the closing of the society, as well as the city’s final spring fair. – Richmond Hill Historical Society

It may be hard to believe now, as we drive up a Yonge Street lined with plazas and highrise condos, but only a few decades ago, Richmond Hill was flanked east of Bayview and west of Bathurst with family farms.

Farms that had been an integral part of the community, well before the village of Richmond Hill itself was incorporated in 1873.

The Yonge Street Agricultural Society was formed in early April of 1849, and by May 2 of that year had organized a one-day agricultural fair, held on a site west of Yonge Street and south of Arnold.

It was a simple beginning, consisting of mostly farm animal exhibits and competitions, but there was added entertainment in the form of a tightrope walker, performing on a rope stretched above Yonge Street between two hotels, and horse races held on the street itself.

Community historian Mary Dawson, writing in the Liberal years later, tells us that “Since there was no public address system available, a man with a loud voice, mounted on horseback, made the rounds of the hotels calling out the list of events, summoning the thirst quenchers to participate.”

It must have been quite the lively scene.

By 1851, the Fair Committee had settled on the date of the fair as Queen Victoria’s birthday, on or about May 24. Still a one-day event, the fair moved from venue to venue (usually a farmer’s land) until 1866, when it was held at the Town Park at Arnold and Church for the first time.

Since council had asked for a fee of $25 for use of the grounds, admission had to be increased to 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children and 10 cents with each exhibitor’s entry form.

Fortunately, these fees also covered the cost of the Teston Band, which played live during the festivities for $20.

Initial prize lists focused on livestock judging, as well as harness racing, but in later years other sporting events such as human foot races and a football tournament were added.

By the 1960s, the prize lists had been expanded to include domestic sciences such as needlework and flower arranging, and even prizes for schoolchildren, such as essay writing, penmanship and arts and crafts.

Equine events included show jumping and a Western Horse Show held under the lights in the evening. By now, the fair itself was held over an entire weekend and a small midway was added as well.

For both the fair and the Agricultural Society, 1985 was a significant year, with the election of its first female president.

Kathleen “Kay” Smith, who had worked with the Society for 25 years, was elected, finally acknowledging the dedication of the women behind the scenes in organizing, cooking, baking and arranging events.

In the words of Fred Thomas, a former president himself, “Kay’s the best president they’ve had for quite a few years. She works hard.”

This was also the year the fair moved from the constrained conditions of the Town Park to Richmond Green, where exhibitors and attendees could enjoy purpose-built facilities such as the Pig Barn for animal exhibits, as well as an expanded midway.

However, with the rapid growth of Richmond Hill during the 80s and 90s, the family farms were developed into housing, and interest in agriculture waned.

The Richmond Hill Agricultural Society, and its Spring Fair, ended in 1996, after 147 years. This brief history, therefore, marks the 25th anniversary of its passing.

Those of us who grew up in Richmond Hill in the 1960s remember it fondly.

Mary Jane Celsie is a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society.

President’s Message (May 2021

Hi everyone,

So we are really into Spring now, though it’s certainly been cooler than we would like. A definite sign is that I mowed the lawn for the first time yesterday – it was very necessary. It’s hard to believe that it’s the second spring of the Covid 19 pandemic, but here we are, still under a lockdown and still trying really hard to stay safe, and watching the vaccination numbers slowly (it seems) rising. I received my first shot at Richmond Green in late March, and was told that my second shot would happen in July. I’m really hoping that vaccine supplies become enough that the July date happens much sooner!

The main purpose of this message, as usual, is to remind you that our regular monthly meeting is coming up on May 17th at 7:30 PM, by Zoom. Anyone wishing to attend this virtual meeting on Zoom is invited to contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

Our speaker will be Mr. Don Holmes, whose topic is Canadian-made hand tools: there must be a better way. I expect that we’ll learn some things that we just never knew!

I sent you a special message last week about an opportunity to tell the city that Heritage Matters, as part of a consultation process regarding a new Master Plan for Richmond Hill. A series of virtual workshops have been scheduled, dealing with specific areas in the city, and I know that some of you have been participating. The first two dealt with the Bathurst Street and Highway 7 area and the Yonge Street and 16th Avenue area. The next one is scheduled for tomorrow night (May 11th) at 7:00 PM and deals with the Village and Richmond Hill GO Station area. You can register on the City website for that session.

The last three workshops are the Bayview and Highway 7 area on May 13th, the Oak Ridges Centre Area on May 18th, and the East Beaver Creek and Highway 7 area on May 20th. The link to register can be found at Official Plan Update – City of Richmond Hill. I would encourage you to participate – this is an important opportunity.

I hope many of you spied Mary Jane Celsie’s article in the Liberal last week, describing the history of Richmond Hill’s Spring Fairs. Mary Jane did a great job on this latest in the series of articles – what I call Heritage Vignettes – that the Historical Society has been preparing for the Liberal over the last few years. I hope you are enjoying them – we’re working on the next one as we speak.

At our last Executive Meeting we discussed a suggestion from Cameron Telch that, as we think about getting back to normal and having regular newsletters again, we consider sharing some members’ stories about their pandemic experiences and how they coped. We could include them over a number of newsletters. So please give some thought to what you might be able to contribute – I think we could all benefit from this kind of sharing

Thanks for your attention, everybody. Don’t forget our next meeting – Monday, May 17th, at 7:30 PM.

Please stay safe.

Jim

Richmond Hill Official Plan Update 2041 – Have Your Say

Richmond Hill Official Plan Update 2041

This is your opportunity to say that heritage matters here in Richmond Hill.

Richmond Hill residents are invited to join these City run, on-line workshops to discuss the vision, character, and function we would like to see. At these meetings the staff does present provincial and regional direction or parameters. But there is a real need to share your knowledge about the local context. It is our opportunity to work together to discuss how the different areas can develop over time.

Here is the schedule (use the link below to register):

  • Bathurst Street & Highway 7 Area (May 4, 2021)
  • Yonge Street & 16th Avenue Area (May 6, 2021) – Register here
  • Village & Richmond Hill GO Station Area (May 11, 2021) – Register here
  • Bayview & Highway 7 Area (May 13, 2021) – Register here
  • Oak Ridges Centre Area (May 18, 2021) – Register here
  • East Beaver Creek & Highway 7 Area (May 20, 2021) – Register here

All workshops are scheduled from 7 to 9 pm.

Here is the link to the Official Plan Update – City of Richmond Hill.

There are surveys that we should complete too.

The city has invited us to the table and we should come.

Please invite others.

Upcoming History Programs at the Richmond Hill Public Library

Photograph of the Richmond Hill Heritage Centre and Amos Wright Park sign.
The Richmond Hill Heritage Centre and Amos Wright Park at 19 Church Street North

The Richmond Hill Public Library is excited to welcome Richmond Hill Heritage Services for two upcoming library programs. In May, we’ll look at spaces, places and stories of our City’s unique heritage; and in June, we’ll learn about how Heritage Services acquires and collects artifacts and go on a tour of the Artifact Storage Facility. Both programs are free, but preregistration is required.

Heritage Designation
Saturday, May 8, 2021
10:00 am – 11:00 am; via Zoom

Under the Ontario Heritage Act, municipalities can pass bylaws to formally designate properties of cultural heritage value or interest – acknowledging a property’s heritage value to a community. At the same time, designation helps to ensure the conservation of these important places for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. In this program you will learn more about how we can protect our city’s cultural fabric. Visit Eventbrite to register.

A Museum Collection
Saturday, June 5, 2021
10:00 am – 11:00 am; via Zoom

Attend a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the Artifact Storage Facility. Learn about what we collect, how to acquire artifacts, and how to preserve them and get a preview of the newly renovated Heritage Centre. Visit Eventbrite to register.

To learn more about the Richmond Hill Public Library, please visit www.rhpl.ca/.

President’s Message (April 2021)

So it’s April! Spring is definitely here – the weather’s been really mild – even warm – so trees are in bud, the grass is greening and I’ve seen lots of Robins. I’m sure we’re in store for some rain, but we need it. It’s great to have winter behind us.

One thing we don’t have behind us is the pandemic. Covid-19 is not only still with us, it seems to be at its worst! Variants of Concern are clearly contributing to the latest surge, and our health care system and all the people who work in it are once again being put to the test – big time. Thankfully, vaccines are being rolled out, and more and more people are getting their shots. I know I’m thankful that both Marion and I have had our first shots (Pfizer, in our case), and it’s good to see that more and more opportunities are being provided to access vaccinations. Between vaccinations and the latest “stay at home” order, we can only hope that we can gain some ground on the pandemic and begin to see a degree of normalcy reappear.

Now onto Historical Society stuff.

My first order of business is to admit to forgetting to send you the link to access the presentation I made at our February meeting about my time in Gros Morne National Park in the early 1970s. Marj Andre and others had encouraged me to send a recording of the presentation out to the whole membership, but I simply forgot! So here’s the YouTube link – have a look. I hope you enjoy it.

Our next regular meeting – by Zoom – is scheduled for Monday, April 19th, at 7:30 PM. Our speaker will be Jason Burgoin, whose presentation will be: “Raising Canadian Standards; The Colorful World of Canadian Heraldry.” Jason is a member of the Toronto Branch of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. Among other things, I’m sure Jason will be happy to tell us just how his Society came to be a “Royal” Society. If you are interested in attending, send us a message at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

Speaking of speakers. I’m sure that many of you are aware that our Publicity Director, Marj Andre, is a very busy advocate in Richmond Hill for keeping its residents connected and finding opportunities to bring informative and educational material to our attention. One of those opportunities is a Speaker Series that has been in place for some time, but that has had to adapt, like everything else, to the realities of the pandemic. Marj is keen to let you know that the Speaker Series is back in a Webinar format available through Zoom. There is currently a series of four great talks scheduled:

  • April 15, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Barbara Perry speaking on “The Resurgence of the Extreme Right”
  • April 22, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Suzanne Evans speaking on “The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook”
  • April 29, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Denise Bolduc, Mnawaate Gordon-Corbiere & Rebeka Tabobondung speaking on “Indigenous Toronto: Stories That Carry This Place”
  • May 13, 2021 – 10:00 AM to Noon – Dr. Olivier Courteaux speaking on “The Forgotten History of Those Women Who Helped Win World War II”

Marj tells us that you can purchase tickets for all four lectures ($30.00) or for individual lectures ($12.00), and that more information is available at https://onrichmondhill.com or at https://tickets.rhcentre.ca/Online/default.asp. You could also reach Marj at 416 822 5139.

A topic that I have been a bit of a pest about is Society memberships. You will recall that we decided early on that, given the pandemic circumstances, we would offer members the opportunity to simply roll over their 2020 membership fees into 2021 – our activities, after all are forced to be minimal. Many of you have chosen to pay your normal 2021 fees anyway, for which we thank you, but I want to reiterate that you have that choice. Also, for those who wish to pay their 2021 fees, we have set up an e-transfer arrangement through our bank. Though there have been a few glitches in this process, I have been assured that everything has been fixed, so that option is certainly open to you. Some of you have also chosen to pay by cheque, which is also totally acceptable.

It is important, though, that you let us know if your preference is to roll over your 2020 fees, so that we can track our membership and keep everything up to date. So, if you intend to roll your fees over, or indeed, if you intend to pay your 2021 fees, please let us know before June. We will need this information to plan for the rest of the year, report on our activities and apply for annual grants.

Well, that’s enough for this message. Stay safe, everyone. I’ll send you a reminder about the April 19th meeting a day or two in advance.

5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival

The Richmond Hill Historical Society is once again honoured to partner with Councillor David West for the 5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival. The Richmond Hill Historical Society has been associated with the Festival from the beginning, and we’re certainly pleased with how it has grown. In 2020, the Festival had the misfortune to be the first City event to be cancelled because of the pandemic, but this year, it’s going ahead, albeit in a virtual format.

Join us for the 5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival, a virtual celebration hosted by Councillor David West. Sunday, March 21, 2021 10 am to 12 pm. http://DavidWest-Richmondhill.ca/Maple-syrup-festival Highlights: Join us for a free online experience to learn about Canada's sweetest national treasure, maple syrup! Attend an educational and interactive webinar. Learn how to tap a maple tree in our maple-themed resource centre. Participate in various activities for your chance to win a prize. Register today! In partnership with Richmond Hill Historical Society, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, City of Richmond Hill.
5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival Poster

A big part of the Festival will be an educational and interactive webinar from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Sunday, March 21st. We would really encourage you to register for the Webinar on David West’s website – DavidWest-RichmondHill.ca/Maple-Syrup-Festival – and continue to offer the Festival the kind of support it deserves. The Webinar’s agenda includes:

  • Indigenous participation
  • Music, that was always a big hit
  • Maple artifacts
  • A maple beverage demo, and
  • An ecology presentation by TRCA.

Also available through the website will be opportunities to view maple syrup videos (tapping trees, boiling sap, storytelling) and to participate in a variety of activities, including maple-oriented arts and crafts, recipes – beyond pancakes – and a scavenger hunt. There is also a resource center available that will contain maple syrup facts and trivia.

So take advantage of this opportunity – participate in the webinar and get involved in the videos and other activities that are being made available. It’s a great chance to support our community and Councillor West.

President’s Message (March 2021)

Hi everyone,

Well, here we are in March. Covid 19 has been with us for a year, now, and I’m sure we’re all suffering from what I’ve come to call “the Covid rut.” I’m also sure that we’re all really looking forward to getting out of that rut and back to normal. We’re getting good news about vaccines, though I’m trying, with some difficulty, to be patient about where and when, and even how, my turn will come. It will sure be nice when our TV news reports and newspapers aren’t full of all the data – and tragedies – generated by this pandemic.

March, of course also means that spring is on its way. I don’t want to jinx our weather, but, all in all, this winter hasn’t been too bad. Snow shoveling hasn’t been terrible, so far, and until recently, it hasn’t even been really cold. More recently, it’s even warm! But I’m still looking forward to spring. I’m just not a winter person!

Our next regular meeting – by Zoom, of course – is Monday, March 15th, at 7:30 PM. Our speaker this month is Alexander Gates, the Executive Director and Curator of the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa. His presentation is entitled: “120 Years of Fear and Fascination with the Automobile.” I’ve checked out the Museum’s website, and I think we’ll be getting a really interesting look at the history of cars in Canada – and a big chunk of that history happened just down the road, in Oshawa. I would like to encourage you to search out their website. It’s really worth a look. The address is: www.canadianautomotivemuseum.com/

This is also an opportunity to remind you that guests are welcome to our Zoom meetings, just as they are to our regular meetings. At those regular meetings, we have been seeking a $5.00 fee for each guest, which has been well-received. I would encourage any guests at our Zoom meetings to consider a $5.00 donation to the Society – this is easy to do through an e-transfer process that I’ll be speaking further about shortly. For the Zoom link, please contact us at r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca.

I’ve mentioned before that we have set up the opportunity to make membership payments to the Society through e-transfers, and I’m pleased to report that it’s working well. We’ve received a number of payments this way, and I must say that it’s really convenient. I would like to remind you that you have the option of rolling your 2020 fees over to cover 2021 – the choice is yours. If your choice is to pay the normal 2021 fees, I would encourage you to use an e-transfer. I know different banks have different processes, but our account is with TD, and you will have to use the Society’s email address to make the payment. Our address is: r.hillhistsoc at hotmail.ca . Another reminder: the annual fees are $25.00 for a single membership and $40.00 for a family membership.

I began this message by talking about March and the imminent arrival of spring, but it also means the imminent arrival of Councillor David West’s annual Maple Syrup Festival. The Richmond Hill Historical Society has been associated with the Festival from the beginning, and we’re certainly pleased with how it has grown. In 2020, the Festival had the misfortune to be the first City event to be cancelled because of the pandemic, but this year, it’s going ahead, albeit in a virtual format.

Join us for the 5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival, a virtual celebration hosted by Councillor David West. Sunday, March 21, 2021 10 am to 12 pm. http://DavidWest-Richmondhill.ca/Maple-syrup-festival Highlights: Join us for a free online experience to learn about Canada's sweetest national treasure, maple syrup! Attend an educational and interactive webinar. Learn how to tap a maple tree in our maple-themed resource centre. Participate in various activities for your chance to win a prize. Register today! In partnership with Richmond Hill Historical Society, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, City of Richmond Hill.
5th Annual Ward 4 Maple Syrup Festival Poster

Marj Andre and I have been part of the planning process for the Festival’s agenda, and I believe it’s shaping up to be a significant event, virtual or not. A big part of the Festival will be an educational and interactive webinar from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Sunday, March 21st. I would really encourage you to register for the Webinar on David West’s website – DavidWest-RichmondHill.ca/Maple-Syrup-Festival – and continue to offer the Festival the kind of support it deserves. The Webinar’s agenda includes:

  • Indigenous participation
  • Music, that was always a big hit
  • Maple artifacts
  • A maple beverage demo, and
  • An ecology presentation by TRCA.

Also available through the website will be opportunities to view maple syrup videos (tapping trees, boiling sap, storytelling) and to participate in a variety of activities, including maple-oriented arts and crafts, recipes – beyond pancakes – and a scavenger hunt. There is also a resource center available that will contain maple syrup facts and trivia.

So take advantage of this opportunity – participate in the webinar and get involved in the videos and other activities that are being made available. It’s a great chance to support our community and Councilor West. I’ve included the poster that has been created to support the festival below.

Thanks for your attention. I hope to see you on March 15th, at 7:30 PM.

Jim

Dr. Duncumb’s Hall — Gone But Not Forgotten

by Norman McMullen
Published in the Richmond Hill Liberal, February 11, 2021

Whatever its fate, the site of the Richmond Hill doctor’s hall holds its place in history, writes Norman McMullen

It’s not likely that many residents of Richmond Hill would be interested in knowing that the Archives Committee at St. Mary’s Anglican Church recently acquired three gnarly and aged yellow bricks.

These items were received following the destruction of Dr. Duncumb’s Hall, formerly located at 10027 Yonge St., almost directly opposite the church.

The future of the property that formerly hosted Dr. Duncumb’s Hall, located at 10027 Yonge St. in Richmond Hill, has been under discussion for some time. – Richmond Hill Historical Society

The future of the property has been under discussion for some time, and late last year, the building met its fate; some have said “demolition by neglect”.

Built for Dr. John Duncumb between late 1857 and 1861, the building served as a courtroom, where he presided as a Justice of the Peace.

His career was short-lived, due to “financial indiscretions” and the structure was eventually converted into a public hall.

Between 1864 and 1872, it served as a place of worship for the local Anglican congregation. Apparently some of the faithful even referred to the structure as “Dr. Duncumb’s Church”!

After Dr. Duncumb’s death by 1875, the hall was renovated for residential use by Lucy Nicholls. Through Lucy’s son Hesse and his wife, the property remained in the family until 1963.

After that, several major modifications were made to the building, allowing rental space for various businesses. Sadly, its gradual decline continued as well.

The Hall was built in a classic revival style, representative of popular designs often used for early official buildings.

According to a York Herald notice in February, 1862:

“On Thursday evening, the 13th inst., Dr. Duncumb opened his Hall in a grand manner. We understand about 200 ladies and gentlemen were present. The doctor entertained his guests in first-rate style to wine and cake; and having engaged the Quadrille Band from Toronto, dancing was the order of the night.”

It is believed to have been one of the earliest brick structures in Richmond Hill, representing an important part of our early justice system, public entertainment, community events, meetings and church services.

It is interesting to note that with the establishment and naming of St. Mary’s in 1872, the congregation simply moved across the street. Dr. Duncumb continued his connections with the Anglicans, although he was frequently at odds with Clergy and some parishioners — especially John Robert Arnold, who was no doubt an entrepreneurial competitor.

It was Arnold who donated the land for establishment of St. Mary’s.

Dr. Duncumb’s death was noted by the York Herald’s obituary of Dec. 10, 1875:

“…Having resisted his native country, (Beverley, Yorkshire, England) he returned to Canada in 1837, and a few years later took up his residence in the Village, where by his professional skill and shrewd business talents, he acquired considerable property; but his career, successful though it was, like all other earthly careers, came to a close, and his powerful frame, in obedience to the common law of nature, yielded to the fierce onslaughts of the grim monster, his lion head was bowed and his stentorian voice was hushed in death…”

So even though his hall has vanished, the bell continues to ring today, in tribute to this remarkable citizen of Richmond Hill.

It is comforting to know that the city directed the Heritage and Urban Design staff to carefully remove any items of historic and architectural significance, prior to demolition of the hall.

I understand this includes the following: About 70 pieces of whole heritage bricks, the original fan-shaped window and three flat head windows, along with two stained glass windows.

These items are now safely stored at the Operations Centre. Hopefully these items will reappear in whatever structure that continues the fascinating story of Dr. Duncumb’s hall.

Norman McMullen is a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society and Chair of the Archives Committee at St. Mary’s Anglican Church.