McKenzie House a rare historical gem in rapidly developing North York


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Daniel Dishaw, Communications and Outreach Coordinator of the Ontario Historical Society, poses in front of McKenzie House

Willowdale’s John McKenzie House was one of five finalists in a competition called This Place Matters, run by the National Trust for Canada. 

McKenzie House was built in 1913, by John and Eva McKenzie. The property was once a 144-acre farm owned by Phillip McKenzie that stretched from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue, and from Norton Avenue to Parkview Avenue. A coach house and a stable were added later on and are still in their original locations. The original milk house has been there since 1907. 

The three-storey, red brick house is currently the headquarters of the Ontario Historical Society (OHS). It was saved from demolition in 1992, and the OHS has invested over $1.18 million in its restoration.

OHS spokesperson Daniel Dishaw said he hopes the organization’s participation in the competition will get people talking about North York’s heritage. 

In an area that is undergoing rapid intensification, there are few buildings of historical significance remaining, especially ones that are publicly owned. As a result, McKenzie House is used for public events such as Heritage Day and Doors Open.

Natalie Bull, executive director of the National Trust for Canada said heritage properties can tell a story better than any textbook. 

“But we know finding funds and raising awareness are two of the biggest challenges faced by organizations working to keep these places alive,” she said.

Other properties in the running for the prize include the Capitol Theatre in Hamilton and the Fryfogel Tavern in Stratford. In July, it was announced that the Top off the Petrie project by Architectural Conservancy Guelph Wellington Branch won the prize for which McKenzie House had been competing.

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