Richmond Hill is steeped in a rich history that should make Richmond Hillians be proud of their home. Our city’s rich tapestry began to develop in the year 1796…
Our City: The Humble Origins
The first settlers in Richmond Hill were British and French immigrants, a mixture of United Empire Loyalists and French Royalists, who moved to the area when the military road from York to Fort Penetanguishene was built to expand inter-base travel. This road of course is the famed Yonge Street that we all know and love.
Within just a few short years the log cabins that formed the initial settlement soon blossomed into a true village, and by the early 1800s Richmond Hill had not one but two inns, two blacksmiths, a store, church and numerous merchants. All the developments focused (as much still do today) around the Yonge Street core—which had developed into an important military trade route. Throughout this period the village tried to find its own identity in name, first being called Miles Hill, then Mount Pleasant—and, finally, Richmond Hill.
Richmond Hill History: The Name Richmond Hill
The exact origins of the name Richmond Hill are unknown, but there are two theories where the name originally blossomed from. One story of how the city got its name revolves around a visit from the Duke of Richmond in 1819. The other says it was derived from a popular song taught to school children, ‘The Lass of Richmond Hill’—which was a song from schoolmaster Benjamin Barnard’s English hometown, Richmond, Surrey.
By the 1850s, due to decades of prosperity, Richmond Hill had expanded vastly and stretched all the way from Major Mackenzie to Wright. In 1873 the village was incorporated. By then it even had its own weekly newspaper. Unfortunately that prosperity didn’t last and growth ground to a halt in the 1870s, that was until the new railroad was built in the 1890s.
Richmond Hill’s History in The 1900s
In the early 1900s Richmond Hill rebranded itself as the rose-growing capital as florists flocked to the city’s burgeoning greenhouses. It was during this time that Richmond Hill adopted the Duke of Richmond’s family crest’s motto “en la rose, je fleuris” which means… “like the rose, I flourish”.
Richmond Hill truly did flourish when it was finally connected to the metropolitan city of Toronto, as the automobile began to take up root in Canada. With the rising availability of cars in the early 1900s Richmond Hillians began commuting to the city to work.
By the 1950s our city was burgeoning thanks to a post-war and post-depression suburban rebound, and by 1957 it has officially been crowned a full-fledge town thanks to its annexing of surrounding townships.
The massive growth that made Richmond Hill what it is today started in the 1970s, as the population doubled, to over 90,000. Despite the growth our city retained much of its original small-town identity, and all the charm that brings.