Number Nineteen by Mark Koning
Built in the year 1896, and located in Whitchurch Stouffville’s downtown core, it ran as a market place that was housed on the main floor while up on the second storey it was a concert hall; therefore offering the public a combination of artisan and vendor exploration along with incredible acoustic sounds. Then in 1923 the building was taken over and made into a silent film house; is anyone thinking Charlie Chaplin at the mention of “silent film”? In 1959 it made quite the drastic change and became home to the townships municipal offices.
Today, the feel of politics, by-laws and legislature has left the building and ‘Nineteen on the Park’, located just south of Main Street and running off of Civic Avenue, has returned to its original roots of arts and entertainment.
On the day that I was there to visit this grand historical site, I found myself looking around in a bit of star struck-like amazement. I was taking in all of the wonderful theatrical and movie posters, along with the plaques of historical stories from old newspaper clippings that where accompanied by black and white photos, before being granted a quick glimpse of the stage and seating area inside of the auditorium. It was rather dark upon my entry as the place was being used for a summer theatre camp, where kids were learning about lighting, sound and acting. (In the surrounding wings some teenagers were focusing lights for their current project, thus the darkened effect.) After sharing in the educational experience, these students of the arts are encouraged to put together a show for their parents and teachers; perhaps even some playhouse critics. I was told that during the fall season they do a similar camp at the centre for film. I smiled and got a tingle at the feeling and thought about the wonderful world of arts and entertainment being passed on from past to present generations and still forward to kids of the future to come.
The movie theatre style tiered seating they have creates an intimate atmosphere for stage productions, concerts, or screenings from cinema and film festivals such as TIFF. This great hall can also be configured for events or receptions, bringing back memories of the old market arena that was once held there.
Outside of the centre itself are remarkable grounds with different landscaped areas in front and back of the building. Entering from Stouffville’s Main Street one walks down a concrete structured path surrounded on either side by well manicured trees, colourful flower arrangements and steel framed wooden benches. In the rear, where parking can be found, is an open field with a park, walking trail, baseball diamond and a lawn bowling court… which is a funny coincidence considering that the building itself once was home to a bowling alley and billiards room.
Nineteen on the Park is well worth the trip; get up close and personal with history and culture, arts and entertainment.