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Ontario Heritage Properties Database

Property Name: Alexander Brown House
Street Address: 8980 Woodbine Ave
Municipality: Markham
County or Regional Municipality: York
Date of Ontario Heritage Act Designation: 6/12/2001
Protection Designator: Ontario Heritage Act designation - Part 4
Reason for Designation: The Alexander Brown House is recommended for designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act because of its historical and architectural significance.

Historical Reasons

The house now located at 8980 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1858 on Lot 11, Concession 3, in the community of Brown’s Corners. The dwelling was constructed for the Browns, a significant local family, and is an excellent example of a Georgian Farmhouse. Although relocated to Lot 13, Concession 3 in the 1980s to avoid demolition, the house remains one of the most significant landmarks of this part of Markham.

The Crown patent to Lot 11, Concession 3 was granted to King’s College on January 3, 1828. Alexander Brown Sr. purchased the eastern half of 100 acres for 125 pounds from the college ten years later on April 26, 1838. Alexander Sr. (1771-1851) with his wife Martha (1778-1850) sold 85 acres for a nominal sum to their son, Alexander Jr. on May 17, 1843. The transfer of land undoubtedly occurred in honour of the recent marriage of Alexander Jr. to Sarah, which took place by 1840. The Brown’s had eleven children: Margaret, Jane, John, Martha, Alexander, Sarah Ann, James William, Nancy, Elizabeth, and twins, Henry and Mary. The family tree forms part of the history of this property.

By 1851, Alexander Jr. had 84 acres under cultivation and was growing wheat, peas, oats, potatoes, carrots and hay. He was able to produce 400 pounds of butter, 50 pounds of cheese, 50 pounds of wool, 40 yards of flannel, 4 barrels of beef and 10 barrels of pork.

The first house on the original lot was the frame building which until 1982 formed the rear section of the present brick building. It was probably built in the 1840s. The brick house which faced Highway 7 was built several years later to accommodate the growing Brown family. It is very similar in design to the Galloway House, built in 1858, which until 1995 stood on Lot 10, Concession 3.

The Brown family were very active in the community. John Brown became a Sergeant Major and then Second Lieutenant in the Third Regiment of Cavalry, Markham Troop, under the command of Major James Elliott of Buttonville. Alexander Brown Sr. donated the land for the Brown’s crown Presbyterian Church in 1843 and there is till a church on the lot.

On the death of Alexander Jr., the property was willed to his five sons. John, James, Alexander and Henry released their claim and Wiliam inherited the family farm and house. William married Sarah Jane Perry who had, four years earlier in 1891, inherited five acres of the original Brown lands from her father William. William Perry had purchased the land in 1877 and operated an inn at Brown’s Corners “The Derry West Hotel”.

William and Sarah Jane Brown had eleven children between 1896 and 1914, only two of whom died in infancy. Their second son, John Edward inherited the family farm on the death of his father in 1962, the ownership of the property passed to his wife Mildred and for several years the Brown farm was cultivated by her son Harvey. The farm was sold to development corporation in 1968.

By the early 1980s, after being tenanted and then left vacant for a number of years, the Alexander Brown House was threatened with demolition by new development. In November 1984, the house was rescued by Susan and Ed Casella who purchased the house and relocated the front section of it to their property at 8980 Woodbine Avenue in the hamlet of Buttonville. In the following years, the house was restored and a new addition was built to the rear.

A smaller house was originally located on the property, however, this was relocated to another lot in the village, immediately to the rear of the subject lot, where it now fronts onto Buttonville Crescent West.

Architectural Reasons

The Alexander Brown House is an example of a Georgian cottage (originally with a tail built in the style of an Ontario Cottage). One and a half storeys in height, the red brick house has three symmetrically placed bays across its front. Originally the house had chimneys on the gable ends.

The trim on the gable roof consists of returned eaves and a wide frieze board. Yellow brick is used as follows: to form quoins on the corners to create a diamond shaped pattern in the apex of each gable end and for the radiating vou0ssoirs over the window (now painted white)

The original windows have all been replaced. Originally they would have been wood, double hung with a six over six pane division. In the early 20th Century, many of the windows were replaced with windows of a 2/2 pane division. The doorway features a six panel door surrounded by sidelights and a transom. All windows have wood sills. The roof would have originally been clad in wood shingles.

The brickwork on the house was of a local variety and is believed to have been dyed with red oxide powder in order to achieve uniformity in finish.

The new additions to the house have been built to reflect the historical appearance of the house on its original location. The connecting wing is of brick, built to reflect the historical appearance of the house on its original location. The connecting wing is of brick, built in a similar form to the original, whereas the rear wing is frame, which reflects the character of the original c. 1840s house which later became the rear tail of the 1858 brick structure.

At the time of the relocation of the house in 1984, the then owner of the property, Susan Casella presented the following architectural interpretation of the house based on details uncovered prior to the restoration of the house:

Susan Casella’s Notes

“The front section of the house is built of triple brick and plastered right over the brick. The walls were then wallpapered. Several years later, to keep out the dampness, all the exterior walls were lathed with ˝ inch lath and re-plastered. We have made several holes in the downstairs walls and the original wallpaper can be seen.

The kitchen wing, built of double brick of the kitchen was built about the same time as the house. The strange way the roofline is attached to the rest of the house is because it was later tied into the new second storey. The frame section only had one small plastered room, the other part was without a floor and was entered by a carriage sized double door. The kitchen entrance to the frame section was a later cut through.

The house has been changed very little over the years. When the room above the kitchen was added, the second window on the main floor west side was closed in, possibly to turn the butler’s pantry into a kitchen pantry because the kitchen was made smaller when the staircase was added. This room was later cut in half and a bathroom added. The family room (sitting) fireplace was filled in about 1920 and replaced with a parlour stove.

A wall was removed between two small rooms, a downstairs bedroom and company sitting room, about the same time. The front porch is not original. Until we take it off we can’t tell if there are blocks in the bricks showing there was one when the house was built.

The basement was deep and had bins and shelves (21-23 inches wide boards) for food storage. There was an outside entrance under the front window on the east ( now north) side.”

Contextual Reasons

Although the Alexander Brown house has been relocated from its original location, it remains close to its historic location and continues to serve as an important heritage landmark. Together with the other historic houses in the vicinity, the house reinforces the sense of history of the former rural hamlet of Buttonville. The structure is an important contributor to the Buttonville Heritage Conservation District Study Area.