Visiting Richmond Hill, Ontario: historic properties on Church Street
The 19th century roots of a thriving, local community
Richmond Hill's Church Street North has some historic properties which belonged to prominent 19th century residents of the town.
No. 19 Church Street and Amos Wright
The Amos Wright House, at No. 19 Church Street North, now houses the Richmond Hill Heritage Centre, which specializes on local history and neighbourhood activities. Amos Wright (1809-1886) was a Parliamentarian, who represented East York in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada from 1853 until 1867. After Confederation, Wright represented West York in the Dominion Parliament from 1868 until 1872.
Amos Wright was also active in local affairs. From 1850 until 1854, Wright was Reeve (the equivalent of mayor) of Markham. In 1857, he presided over public function at which he argued for the incorporation of Richmond Hill. This was eventually attained in 1873. Richmond Hill commemorated its 125 years of incorporation in 1998 and a plaque to this effect has been provided at Amos Wright's former residence: especially appropriate, given Wright's noted, personal commitment to this measure.
Known as an ally of George Brown, Wright later became Crown Agent for the area around Thunder Bay; he resided in Port Arthur, where in fact, he died in 1886.
Near the Richmond Hill Heritage Centre, a park is named for Amos Wright, an entrance to which adjoins Wright's former residence.
No. 39 Church Street and Dr James Langstaff
No 39 Church Street North was the residence of Dr James Langstaff (1825-1889) in 1880, as a plaque on the frontage of the house relates. The Langstaffs were a family of local medical doctors who served in the area from the early 19th century until 1973. A road is named in the wider area is named for the Langstaff family, as is a local park also, and the Langstaff Discovery Centre and a local school also.
In 1880, the year cited on the plaque at No 39 Church Street North, Dr James Langstaff was elected Reeve of Richmond Hill. In medical practice until his death, he also had an interest in a local sawmill. He was noted in his medical for taking a compassionate interest in patients unable to pay fully for his services; his other business activities thus compensated the losses which this sympathetic trait of character undoubtedly incurred him.
Thus, in fact, while both Amos Wright and Dr James Langstaff were both prominent men locally, it may be noted that their respective periods of residence on Church Street appears not to have coincided, as far as these two historic properties are concerned.
Also worth seeing
Kleinburg (distance: 16.9 kilometres) has the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and many of the Canadian Seven's works.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Richmond Hill Heritage Centre: approx. 28.7 kilometres). Highways 400, and 404, and subsequently Major Mackenzie Drive, give access to Church Street, Richmond Hill. Be advised that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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