This location marks the only remains of the York County Industrial Home. Unofficially it was known as the poorhouse?. Constructed by the County of York in 1881-82 at the southwest corner of Yonge and Eagle streets, the Industrial Home housed society's less fortunate ?the poor, the elderly, the mentally disabled, orphans and unwed mothers. Long before the days of social programs, these unfortunate souls were housed in an institution like this.
The home was an impressive four story structure built in the Queen Anne style of architecture with an estate-like front garden, complete with a bronze fountain and ornamental gardens. It was very reminiscent of the main building of Pickering College, on the other side of Newmarket.
Those who stayed at the home also worked on the grounds, tending to daily chores, cooking, cleaning, and working the adjoining dairy farm. The "inmates" where not allowed to leave the grounds without permission and cases of punishment by solitary confinement where not unheard of.
The records show that between 1883 and 1937, that there were almost 750 deaths at the home. Most of the deceased where claimed by next of kin and buried elsewhere, others were taken by the Inspector of Anatomy for use in local universities. Any unclaimed bodies that were not taken, were buried in unmarked graves in the home's cemetery. According to records, there were about 165 lost souls buried in this unmarked cemetery.
The home was transformed over the years and eventually became a home for the elderly, and was known as York Manor. In 1959, the County purchased the land at the northwest corner of Yonge and Eagle Streets (across the road from the current location) and began construction of a new York Manor. This too was demolished in 1994 to make way for the York Region Administrative Building and its landscaped parking area. During its last few years, the poorhouse? also served as an armoury before being completely demolished in 1973. On this land now sits the current provincial courthouse.
According to local historians, the bodies from the unmarked graves had since been officially moved. However, they have found no official record of this, or when it happened, or to where the bodies would have been relocated. Perhaps they are still there in unmarked graves, lost souls in a cemetery marked only by a tall stone cairn. The property of the old cemetery is owned and managed by the Region of York, and is now surrounded by housing development on all sides.
The stone cairn makes no mention of the York Industrial Home or its sad history. To all appearances, this is simply a tidy grass buffer between backyards. The cairn itself displays some of the stone markers from the original building, including the date it was erected, the crest of York County, and pays homage to Jane Porter, the wife of a wealthy local entrepreneur who upon her death set aside $2000 to pay for a new wing on the home. No mention of home or the cemetery exists today.