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Our History 109
Our History
In the early 1840’s the small community of Newmarket recognized the need for a secondary school. A group of citizens with familiar names like Bogart, Botsford, and Cawthra, petitioned the government for help and received a grant of $75 to build a school. Accordingly, in 1843 Newmarket Grammar School came into being. It was the first secondary school established north of Toronto, and the second one established in Upper Canada.

The school could accommodate forty-six students, all of whom were required to pay fees: education was not free. The curriculum relied heavily on basics like English Grammar, Mathematics, Science and classics like Latin, and the purpose was to prepare students for university: secondary education was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Several of the early students went on to political fame, the best known of whom was Sir William Mulock who became Chief Justice of Ontario and Postmaster General.

In 1871, an Act of the Legislature changed the name of all “Grammar Schools” (a name from British School System) to “High Schools”; thus, Newmarket High School was born. The population of the town was increasing and the newly named High School was no longer adequate to support the enlarged enrolment. A new Building had to be constructed.

The new high school was erected at the corner of Prospect St. and Pearson St. in 1876 at the cost of $6,000. The new school was built in the gothic style with long narrow windows. Early pictures attest to its attractiveness. However, it was out-dated almost as soon as it was ready for use. Three rooms were not enough to look after the number of students enrolled; three teachers were not enough to look after the number of classes. Moreover, the school had been badly insulated and was bitterly cold in the winter. The wood-burning furnaces were not efficient at heating, and the long narrow windows, so attractive in appearance, let in very poor light. The inside lighting was by coal lamp and the rooms were never light enough, especially in winter. Perhaps it was no great misfortune that the furnace misfired on March 16, 1893: the building caught fire and burned to the ground.

The town was changing. Newmarket had been incorporated as a town in 1880; it was thereafter established as a focal point in York County. In the 1890’s electricity was brought to town dramatically altering the operation of both houses and industry. The Electric Railway was built up Yonge St. making Toronto much more accessible. Eventually the railway was extended north to Keswick allowing students from the country easier access to high school.

In 1894 a new school was completed on the same site. The new school had four rooms, one of which was outfitted with typewriters; in the thirty-four-year life of the school, two additions were completed giving the school six new classrooms, a gymnasium and an auditorium. As with the first two schools, the toilet facilities were outdoors. On Saturday, March 31, 1928 a fire broke out near midnight. The cause was never known, but the results were clear and devastating: the entire school including all school records and memorabilia from the past eighty-five years was destroyed.

The fate of the two schools at the Prospect and Pearson Streets site gave rise to the school crest, the main motif of which is the legendary phoenix. The phoenix is said to live 500 years, to consume itself by fire, then to rise from the ashes of that funeral pyre and begin a new cycle of life. Newmarket High School rose again from those ashes after the fire of 1928 as it had earlier.
The new school was built immediately after the fire, and was hailed as “one of the most modernized educational institutions in the Dominion of Canada.” It had twelve classrooms, two science rooms, and auditorium that would hold four hundred people, a cafeteria, and a rifle range.

The special modern features were: centrally controlled electric clocks, thermostats in each room, and telephones in each room all connected to the principal’s office. The school building remained essentially the same until after the war; since the war several additions were completed. What was so wonderfully “modern” in 1928 became woefully out-dated, and many renovations were done along the way to accommodate the enlarged enrolment and the ever-changing curriculum.

The archives of the school has memorabilia dating back to 1920, and many items there indicate that the school over the years was the focal point of entertainment as well as education in the town and the communities outside Newmarket. The fondness that the town, graduates, hold for the school became evident in 1981 when a Newmarket High School Reunion was held. Over six thousand people came; their enthusiasm generated a grounds well of affection that translated into vocal support for the school when there was some talk of tearing it down. The school building became a victory of function of aesthetics: nevertheless, the character of the old building commanded an enduring affection from its students. Despite the affection for the old building, by the 1990’s it became clear that modern educational demands had outrun the facilities that could be offered there. The School Board purchased land on Mulock Drive, and, after receiving Provincial approval, began construction on a new Newmarket High School in 1994. The building was completed in 1996 and so . . . the phoenix rose again! The new school is a larger building and furnished with up-to-date facilities and equipment for all subjects; it has lifted us into the electronic age. Since moving to the new school, we have come to appreciate its modern equipment, its abundance of light and the feeling of spaciousness so apparent in the atrium; at the same time, the addition of memorabilia from the old school - the trophies, the paintings and the Heritage classroom, for example - help to remind us of our long tradition.
Our school mascot is the Newmarket Raider. You’ll find the raider on the walls of our school, in our gym and on our t-shirts. Watch for him or her at one of our games!
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