An historic commercial building at 184-186 Main Street South, owned by developer Bob Forrest, was demolished earlier today - without permission from the Town of Newmarket. (Photo: building on right as it was and, below, after demolition)

The first female pharmacist in Ontario, Anne Mary Simpson, ran her apothecary from this heritage building. 

Town rejects Forrest's Plan

The developer Bob Forrest tried for years to get planning approval for a condo in Market Square which would involve the demolition of a string of historic commercial properties on Main including this one at 184-186 dating from the mid 1800s. He was ultimately unsuccessful and struck a deal with the Town to restore the buildings together with the landmark Clock Tower and put them up for sale.

Only the historic plaque cemented into the sidewalk in front of 184-186 Main Street South remains to remind us of what was once there.

The Town's Heritage Registry describes the architectural features of 184-186 Main Street in this way:

"A two-storey frame block clad in siding with roughcast plaster beneath and surmounted by a gable roof ‒ one in a row of historic buildings anchored by the Old Post Office."

"Protected"

The building was supposedly protected from demolition.

The Town tells us:

"Newmarket has designated 43 properties under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act​ and 72 properties as part of the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District (HCD) under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act. These properties are designated due to their cultural and architectural heritage value. They are protected from demolition and changes to the building must be sensitive to their heritage value."

In the early days the building was owned by Charles Simpson who was apprenticed under Dr John Bentley for seven years to become an apothecary. He ran his business from this property. He died during a devastating typhoid epidemic that decimated Newmarket in 1879, taking the lives of one in every 10 people.

Irreplaceable

As part of the long debate on Forrest’s plans, the architectural consultants Goldsmith Borgal reviewed the buildings Forrest wanted to demolish, saving only their facades. This is their pen portrait of what has now disappeared forever: 

"This two storey frame structure is the oldest extant building on the block, and perhaps one of the oldest buildings on Main Street South. Dating to the early nineteenth century (likely c1840), it may be the building referenced in an early drawing of the street as the Smith & Emprey General Store. Smith and Emprey was established in 1837 and was located immediately north of the North American Hotel.

The building at 184 Main Street South is also represented on the 1862 plan of the Village on lot 19. Charles Hargrave Simpson, whose wife, Anne Mary Simpson, was Ontario's first woman druggist, once owned the building. Simpson operated an apothecary from 1886 to 1914."

I don’t know why it was demolished but I can guess what we shall all be told tomorrow. We shall be reminded there was permission to remove the structures at the rear. Perhaps we shall be told this left the main building in a structurally unsound condition and it had to be torn down for safety reasons. I don’t know. 

Scandalous

Forrest or his agents are responsible for the scandalous destruction of an irreplaceable part of the Town’s history. 

We need to be told how this catastrophe was ever allowed to happen.

What was the precise sequence of events?

What safeguards were ostensibly in place to stop this sort of thing happening?

Who was responsible on-site?

Who took the decision to demolish and for what reasons?

Who was consulted at the Town?

Were professional structural engineers called in?

After a campaign to save our historic Main Street lasting many years what a tragedy it is to see this happen.

Those responsible must be held to account.

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Update on 11 October 2019: The penalties for contravening the Ontario Heritage Act are set out in s69.

The Town issued this Statement on 10 October 2019:

  • Main Street Clock Inc. Development Update 

    Created: Thursday, October 10, 2019

    The Town of Newmarket has recently been made aware of the demolition of 184 and 186 Main Street. The original scope of work and conditions for the building permits were only to conduct interior alternations to the building.  
     
    The Town of Newmarket is issuing a STOP WORK ORDER on all buildings related to the Main Street Clock Inc. Development (188, 190, 192 and 194 Main Street) until further notice.
     
    The Town of Newmarket is committed to protecting the heritage of the Downtown Area to ensure it is preserved, restored and beautified. Newmarket is taking this matter seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation.  We will provide an update to the community as soon as possible.
     
    For more information on the Clocktower Application, please visit newmarket.ca/clocktower

The scale of the destruction concealed by the hoardings on the Main Street South side. But everything has gone.

The Clock Tower has lost its next door neighbour

The plaque is all that remains: "The Charles Hargrave Simpson Building: Ontario's first woman druggist operated an apothecary here from 1886 to 1914."

Another view of the totality of the devastation. Looking from Main Street towards Market Square

It wasn't closed for restoration and repairs.

Looking from Market Square towards Main Street. Nothing is left of the heritage building.

This is the Road Occupancy permit attached to the wooden hoarding at 184-186 Main Street South. "Sidewalk will be occupied with overhead protect (scaffolding with pedestrian through-way) for doing renovations on exterior storefronts at 184-194 Main Street South..."

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