Prepared for the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee in 2004
On May 16th, 1853, the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union Railroad Company's steam engine "Toronto" pulled the first train into Machell's Corners (Aurora). The railway's original depot was built at the same location as today's station. At this time, heavy forest separated the track from the actual hamlet.
By June of 1853, a local landowner (John Mosely) had subdivided his property (Plan 68) between the village and the tracks, and had begun selling off building lots.
In 1854, Charles Doan (prominent merchant, landowner and postmaster) renamed Machell's Corners as "Aurora" (after the Grecian goddess of dawn) "to reflect the emergence of a new community".
By January 1st of 1855, the rail line had reached through to Collingwood.
By 1856, the "Railway Hotel" had been built on the north side of Wellington Street, due north of the depot. The "Wellington Hotel" (B.F. Davis & Son) was built at what is now the southwest corner of Wellington and Berczy Streets. A short distance west on Wellington, a temperance hotel was also built.
Between 1853 and 1857, Aurora's population grew from approximately 100 to 400.
In 1859, the Fleury Agricultural Implement Works was founded in Aurora, taking full advantage of the railway's presence.
In 1863, the village was incorporated and the improvement of Wellington Street became a priority. Prior to that year, administration matters for its east and west halves had been split between Whitchurch and King Townships (Yonge Street being the boundary between them).
By 1885, a replacement station had been constructed north of Wellington Street, on the west side of the track, where Centre Street then ended.
In 1888, the Grand Trunk Railway took over the line. Early out-going freight included Fleury Implement plows, timber from King Township and grain/farm produce from the surrounding townships. It was in this year that Aurora was incorporated as a town.
In 1895, a new combined passenger and freight station was completed on the west side of the tracks. However, its layout and design were widely criticized as dangerous, inconvenient, unsightly and ugly. (4)
In 1899, the Metropolitan Street Railway Company completed the radial railway up Yonge Street from Toronto to Newmarket. This impacted noticeably on local passenger traffic using the station.
In 1900 GTR built the new Aurora station on the east side of the tracks, which remains to this day.
By 1911, an interchange had been built at the south end of Aurora, between the GTR and the radial railway (which was by that time owned by the Toronto & York Radial Railway Company). This allowed Fleury Foundry freight cars spur-line access to the GTR by way of the Yonge Street radial railway.
In 1919, Collis Leather Tannery also acquired spur-line access to the GTR by way of the radial railway.
In 1923, Canadian National Railways inherited the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway and added a freight shed at the station's south end.
By 1989, the station served as a commuter facility for the Bradford/Toronto line, which was then handling 160 daily commuters. In that year, both the station and its supporting site were recognized in an official consultant's report (2) to be in an intolerably poor condition .. from both functional and historical preservation perspectives.
As a result, Go Transit undertook a restoration project. The project involved demolishing the freight shed located at the station's south end, building a new concrete foundation, reconstructing parts of the roof, removing the exterior's overlaid asphalt insulbrick, restoring its original board and batten siding, re-establishing the integrity of the north end platform window (by removing a recently installed pedestrian door) and replacing the interior's damaged tongue and groove ceiling.
The renovated station has since become an intensively used public facility as part of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority's growing Go Transit commuter rail system, allowing residents of Aurora to commute to and from the City of Toronto.
The Aurora Railway Station is a variation of the Grand Trunk Railway Company's standard Class One model design, incorporating elements of the Picturesque Gothic Revival and the Classical Revival styles.(1)
The station was originally built on a foundation of timber posts, with its floor between 1' and 2' above ground level.(2)
The station's walls are constructed of wood frame. Wood planking was used for both interior and exterior cladding. The exterior treatment was in the "Stick Style", with framing elements applied over board-and-batten and diagonal wood panels. These were painted in contrasting brick-red, green and yellow.(3)
The west elevation (the platform side) has a projecting bay window, which originally served to house the telegraph equipment and to provide the dispatcher with a clear view of arriving and departing trains.
The station has a steeply pitched hip roof (constructed of 2 x 6" rafters) with extended eaves. One gable peak accents the projecting bay window. A second gable peak accents the north end's porte-cochere. A third gable peak once graced the station's south end, but was removed when the freight-shed addition was built. Each of the gable peaks' openings is heavily decorated with Gothic bargeboard, kingpost, pendant and finial.
The north end's port-cochere is supported from the station's north corners by pilasters and arched braces, while a pair of slender pillars with similar braces support its north projection.
Classical detailing includes oversized door transoms, thick surrounds on all openings and a wide horizontal band, which encircles the entire building.
The inside was finished in varnished Norway pine. Its ceiling is supported by 2 x10" joists, below which the original planked ceiling was dropped 2 feet.
The station's platform was originally built of wood. Subsequently this was replaced by a brick surface. In turn, this was subsequently replaced with a layer of asphalt.
In 1923, Canadian National Railways inherited the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway. At this time, a freight shed was added to the station's south end. Subsequently, in an effort to reduce maintenance costs, CN covered the station's board and batten siding with insulbrick.
The presence of the station is a visual reminder of the role of the railway in the development and expansion of Aurora. The railway's arrival in 1853 initiated the growth of Aurora from a small milling hamlet into an important regional shipping center with substantial local industry.(1)
Through the last quarter of the twentieth century, as trucks took over local freight transport, the spur lines and their associated freight sheds were removed from the east side of Berczy Street.
On July 1st of 1971, a historical plaque was dedicated to the station. It was sponsored by the Aurora and District Historical Society.. in co-operation with Aurora Council, the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board, the Ontario Department of Public Records and Archives, and the Canadian National Railways.
By the end of the twentieth century, Aurora's industrial and residential growth had expanded far to the east. The renovated station has since become an intensively used public facility in the growing Go Transit commuter rail system. It has become both an important element in the Greater Toronto Area's commuter transportation system and a fully re-integrated component of Aurora's heritage preservation.
|Property:||Grand Trunk Railway Station
121 Wellington Street East
|Legal Description:||Registered Survey 65R-16533 Part 1|
|Owners:||Greater Toronto Transit Authority
20 Bay Street, Suite 600
Toronto, ON M5J 2W3
|Assessment Roll No:||19-46-000-044-520-00-0000|
|Date of Construction:||1900|
|Style of Architecture:||Picturesque Gothic / Classical Revival|
|Type of Structure:||Railway Station (variation of the
Grand Trunk Railway Company's
Class One Model)
|Number of Storeys:||1|
|Exterior Wall Material:||Wood|
|Special Features:||Unique window, wall, interior
and roof details.
(1) Aurora Heritage Committee Heritage Property Report (1983).
(2) Preliminary Survey, Renewal of CNR Station and Railway Lands, Aurora … by Stephen J. McCasey & Associates Inc. (January 1989)
(3) Railway Station Report - Canadian National Railways Station Aurora, Ontario … from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (prior to 1991).
(4) Aurora Railway Station: the successive buildings and the evidence for them - "an incomplete tale" … by the Aurora and District Historical Society (unspecified date).
(5) Files of the Aurora Historical Society.
Updated 17/09/04 - BBD