Richmond Hill

Richmond Hill History

The Regional Municipality of York was established by Bill 102 An Act to Establish the Regional Municipality of York of the provincial parliament, passed on June 26, 1970 and coming into force on January 1, 1971.[5] The act expanded Richmond Hill’s borders, annexing parts of Whitchurch Township, Markham Township, Vaughan Township and King Township into Richmond Hill, expanding the area covered from 1,700 acres (6.9 km2) to 27,000 acres (110 km2) and the population from a little over 19,000 to some 34,000. The town grew to encompass the communities of Gormley, Dollar, Langstaff, Carrville, Headford, Elgin Mills, Jefferson, Bond Lake, Temperanceville, Lake Wilcox, Oak Ridges and Richvale. While Richmond Hill was a prosperous, well developed town, many of the outlying areas annexed were far more rural, with dirt roads, no water mains or sewers and no streetlights, and the time needed to bring municipal services up in these areas, combined with residual unequal tax assessments caused considerable conflict in the municipal politics for some time. Policing was taken over by the York Regional Police, but fire protection remained with Richmond Hill, whose firefighting force quickly grew. Having hired its first full time employee in 1967, it had fourteen full time employees by 1971.
Yonge Street through Richmond Hill expanded from two lanes to four in 1971, relieving congestion on what had become known as “Ontario’s worst stretch of highway”.[5]
The Richmond Hill Dynes Jewellers softball team was the 1972 Softball World Champions.[5] The Royal Canadian Air Farce was recorded at the Curtain Club Theater in Richmond Hill for its first 5 seasons on radio, beginning in 1973.[6] The Air Farce returned for an anniversary recording in the 1990s. Also in 1973 was the centennial of the town’s incorporation as a village, and the town set up a number of celebratory activities, including a beard growing contest, commissioning a centennial song, a parade, a street dance and the unveiling of an historic plaque honoring the town’s founding in front of the municipal offices. June 27 was officially declared Russell Lynett Day, named after the town’s clerk, only the third in its existence. 1973 also saw the sale of the last of the original rose-growing greenhouses in Richmond Hill. Development had led to increasing property taxes and the H.J. Mills greenhouses relocated to Bayview Avenue and Elgin Mill Road. The site of the greenhouses was developed as a subdivision. The fast growing town set aside significant areas for parks, with five new parks dedicated in 1973, and two more in 1974. The Richmond Hill Historical Society was founded in 1973.[5] The society was dedicated to preserving the history of Richmond Hill and raising awareness of the town’s history. Their first action was to restore 150 year old house, known as the Burr House.
As the 1970s went on, the population growth of Richmond Hill remained large. In 1976, home prices in Richmond Hill were among the highest in Canada.[5] By this time, the town council was split over whether to keep expanding rapidly. The deadlock over a fifty-five house subdivision named Springmills Estate lead to one councilor saying that it was not the reform council it was dubbed, but a “deformed council”. Other housing projects faced similar problems as councilors debated many things, including the need for affordable housing and the encroachment of homes into the farmland and the Oak Ridges Moraine.
GO train service was extended to Richmond Hill in 1978, officially opened on April 29, 1978 by Bill Davis.[7]
Growth in Richmond Hill slowed towards the end of the 1970s, with M.L. McConaghy Public School closing in 1979 due to dropping enrollment.[5] At the same time, Richmond Hill began to make official plans for future land development. The first official plan concerned a 700-acre (2.8 km2) industrial park at Leslie Street and Highway 7 named Beaver Creek. A commercial area within the park spread into the hamlet of Dollar. The plan was rejected, however, by the Ontario Municipal Board, and Richmond Hill was the first municipality in Ontario to have its official plan rejected outright by the board. The whole affair was subject to much controversy in the community, although the town council eventually declined to appeal the decision.
When the new council convened in 1980, led by new mayor Al Duffy, the town remained without a development plan. The council hired civic planner Peter Walker to produce a new official plan. By September 1981, the new plan was draft, with limited development of northern Richmond Hill, industrial development centred in the south-east part of town and commercial centres remaining along Yonge Street.[8] The plan was approved in July 1982 by the Ontario Municipal Board.
A clash over the use of the land in Langstaff, known as the Langstaff Jail Farm erupted in 1982 between Richmond Hill and Toronto, which owned the land.[9] The 632-acre (2.56 km2) plot of land had been acquired by Toronto in 1911, and was unused in 1982. Toronto’s plans for development clashed with those of Richmond Hill over the balance of industry and residential development, with Richmond Hill favouring more industrial development.[10]
The rose business left Richmond Hill in June 1982, with the closure of H.J. Mills florists. Mills had died in 1980 leaving the company to his son, but the poor economic conditions, combined with increasing property taxes in the growing city made the business unprofitable.[8] A 1984 contest organised by The Liberal had readers submit entries for a new town slogan. The town council choose three of the submissions which residents then voted on, and “A little north, a little nicer” became Richmond Hill’s new town slogan.
Richmond Hill’s growth continued explosively in the 1990s, fueled in significant part by immigration. In the early 90s, Statistics Canada named Richmond Hill as the fastest growing community in Canada.[11] The demographic base began to change too, with the Richmond Hill Association for Multiculturalism founded in 1989 by Jay Chauhan. Today, Richmond Hill is a multicultural town, with a Hebrew school, a Hindu temple, Chinese language churches, Italian Community Club, Italian language church services and other facilities serving the needs of the communities.