For more than one hundred and twenty years, it's stately and timely presence has stood guard over Hurontario Street in my hometown of Collingwood Ontario. Originally known as "The Market Building" for the farmer's market that was a once a prominent feature, this architectural masterpiece was also home to both stores, an opera house, and from it's construction, the seat of local government.
It was designed by Toronto architects C.J. Gibson and and Henry Simpson in a style made popular by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and popularly known as "Richardsonian Romanesque. When we were travelling in Louisiana in 2012, we actually visited H.H. Richardson's birthplace at St. Joseph Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. His style was characterized by bold arches and other rusticated features that were quite popular in architecture of that time. Construction began in 1889, and many local craftsmen had a hand in it's creation including local bricklayer John Chamberlain and also the Bryan Manufacturing Company.
The building was constructed and furnished at a cost of $25,000, and was no sooner finished when calamity struck. During a civic holiday in August of 1890, a fire broke out in the market portion of the building and the structure was gutted to the bare walls. It was reported that smoke from the fire could be seen from as far away as Meaford and was also observed by steamers on the lake. Thankfully however, the foresight of council at the time to insure the structure meant that reconstruction was speedy, and the building was once again finished in 1891. Although it was designed with a clock tower, few folks realize that a clock was indeed not a part of the facade until one was donated by local citizen Frank Courtice (for whom Courtice Crescent is named) in 1950. Another little known fact was the ornate iron fountain that once graced the front entrance, but was removed many years ago.
This majestic building has seen many changes throughout it's lifetime. The market and opera house were eventually phased out, and the local arena at the rear was constructed in 1949. It received a thoughtful overhaul in 1984, and is a fondly loved and well maintained part of our beautiful main street.