After visiting the “Downtown Markham” site last Saturday, I went on to the old village of Markham. What’s interesting is the lack of current development here, even as Markham is booming, and some of the quirky heritage features, such as forced heritage-style structures and a heritage subdivision just to the north.
Old Markham has a few antique dealers, sports and hobby shops, the obligatory bank branches, cafes and bars, and is charming, if not unique. Markham Road/Highway 48 through here is forced into two general traffic lanes, yet there is still a lot of through traffic, despite the construction of a by-pass alternative to the east. (Unionville, smaller and with an even narrower roadway was completely bypassed with a re-routing of Kennedy Road.) The railway station was also preserved, and despite the lack of parking space, GO Transit continues to stop here. Recent GO Stations, such as Mount Pleasant, Lisgar, and Rutherford, attempt to look like old railway stations (and in the middle of giant parking lots), but don’t do nearly as well as the originals, such as Markham, Aurora, or Brampton.
But what’s also interesting are the attempts to recreate the Victorian streetscape in newer buildings in and around the old village. Especially comical was the Esso gas station, built to full suburban size, but with a wooden blue-white-and-red sign and a brick veneer on the poles and buildings, with wood shingles. A throwback to the earlier gas stations with art deco canopies and replica signage would have been better.
But the strangest heritage effort in Markham is the Markham Heritage Estates subdivision. This small subdivision is owned by the Town of Markham and is a place for historic houses to be moved to if they are threatened by development and unable to be preserved in place. But seeing these Victorian and Edwardian houses together, where farmhouses stand next to buildings that once stood in one of the original villages, in a modern subdivision layout, looks like something out of an early Tim Burton film.
Nearby, the Markham museum preserves non-residential buildings, such as the old Locust Hill CP Station, used until the cancellation of VIA Peterborough service in the infamous Mulroney 1990 axe of passenger rail. All three railway stations in Markham have been preserved, with Markham station still in active service.