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Visiting Whitby, Ontario and its James Rowe House: remembering Whitby's first, 19th century mayor

Updated on September 23, 2011
Ontario Provincial flag
Ontario Provincial flag | Source
James Rowe House, Whitby, circa 1856
James Rowe House, Whitby, circa 1856 | Source
Town of Whitby historical plaque for the James Rowe House
Town of Whitby historical plaque for the James Rowe House | Source
Map location of Whitby in the Durham Region, Ontario
Map location of Whitby in the Durham Region, Ontario | Source

Putting Whitby on the map

This historic property in Whitby, Ontario, is of special significance because it was once the dwelling of James Rowe, the Town of Whitby's first Mayor in the 19th century.

Some history and features

This simple, two storey frame house was originally situated at the intersection of Charles and Victoria Streets; the property was moved in 1999. Its new venue, particularly suitable for visitor access, is at 301 Front Street, close to the marina at Port Whitby. A variety of educational programs is organized at the house, now maintained by the Town of Whitby; the house is also a museum.

James Rowe was locally prominent for a number of reasons, being a man of many parts. In addition to his historic role as first mayor of Whitby, he also served as Warden of Ontario County (which was eventually mostly subsumed into the Durham region). In his private business capacity, Rowe was proprietor of a grain shipping business which operated from Whitby Harbour. (Maybe the Victorian-era penchant for encouraging people of proven talent to combine private and public roles could teach us something today? We may consider the not unusual, contemporary, obsessive pursuit of official self-righteousness against even obliquely perceived conflicts of interest, which can sometimes result in driving talented people away from public service.)

Prior to its move to the current, Front Street location, the house was for owned jointly for 85 years by the McCrohan and Henry families.

The Whitby Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee sponsors an historical plaque outside this heritage property.

From 'Maple Grove' to 'James Rowe House'

Parallel with the move in 1999, which underlined the historical importance of this house, was the changing emphasis in the naming of the house. In the lifetime of James Rowe, it was known as 'Maple Grove'.

But particularly since the pivotal move in 1999, a name which emphasizes the civic and historical connotations has come to the fore. This heritage building is now known as 'James Rowe House'.

Also worth seeing

In Whitby itself, the Station Gallery is a centre for the arts housed in the historic, converted former railroad station. Also in Whitby is the Lynde Shores Conservation Area.

Oshawa (distance: approx. 11 kilometres); Parkwood National Historic Site of Canada is the former home of Colonel Robert McLoughlin, GM (Canada)'s automobile tycoon.


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 Whitby : 63.7 kilometres). GO Train operates a service between Union Station, Toronto and Whitby. Highway 401 gives easy road access to Whitby. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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