A drive in the country, probably at Devil’s Elbow (Warden and Major Mackenzie), in Unionville’s first motor car, owned by the John Davison family. John Davison was the father of G.A.M. (Art) Davison who in 1912 acquired a dealership for Ford automobiles, and built a garage across the street from his father’s Post Office. The historic pub used to be home to York Region’s first movie theatre. The building dates back to 1870. It was a blacksmith shop, then an auto repair garage, a playhouse and a restaurant. In 1912, G.A.M. Davidson ran Ontario’s first Ford Model T dealership there. The garage is now the Unionville Arms
The structures at 192-194 Main St. were built c. 1870 by John Davison. The south part with a Second Empire-style mansard roof was the home of G.A.M. Davison, one of the village’s leading citizens during the 1920s. He ran a garage and Ford dealership from the building that is now the Unionville Arms, and at one time he was reputed to sell more Ford cars than anyone in Canada. The north part with the false front was originally a general store, and later became the post office (1881-1960), with Markham Township offices in the rear. By the late 1930s, Council was holding meetings in the old Post Office, in a small back room. By 1951, when this photograph was taken, the general store appears to have gone out of business.
In 1989 Paul and Tom re-opened the doors and the Unionville Arms has blossomed into the neighbourhood meeting place.
Many locals within walking distance have claimed the Unionville Arms Pub and Grill (905-470-8831) as their own.
“It the local watering hole,” Mr. Virgilio acknowledges.
Just like Cheers, everybody knows your name.
Co-owner Tom Vasilovsky modestly agrees his pub is “kind of a landmark” — even on a rainy fall afternoon, the booths are full of people chatting and laughing over coffee or ale. The atmosphere is comfortable and unpretentious.
The secret to his success? “The service is great and the food is excellent — it’s top quality and we really pride ourselves on that — at a reasonable price.”
“And our customers are great; they make first-timers feel welcome. Everybody knows everybody.”
Chef Brian Forbes offers typical pub fare — they’ve sold more than a million pub pies — as well as pasta and steaks, but Mr. Vasilovsky quickly adds, “There’s no such word as no here” when it comes to making substitutions.
Restaurants are in the Vasilovskys’ blood — his parents owned “a greasy spoon” —
and to this day, at festival time, they can’t keep up with the demand for “Mama V’s” barbecued peppers.
It’s clear, too, the Unionville resident’s philosophy that it’s important to give back has contributed to the pub’s enduring success. Annual golf tournaments have raised $300,000 for Sick Kids, Women’s College and Markham Stouffville hospitals.
The Unionville Arms, a pub and restaurant the brothers own, caught fire around 9 a.m. The fire began in the back of the century-old building, before spreading and gutting the restaurant, York police said. There were no injuries.
“When I came up and saw my building up in flames, it was heartbreaking,” said Tom Vasilovsky, 46. “It’s like losing a friend. My head is just spinning right now.”
York police Sgt. Peter Orlovski said the front of the building, parts of which might date back to the 1860s, could be salvaged. The owners plan to rebuild.
Many of the pub’s staff have worked at the Unionville Arms since the Vasilovsky brothers opened it in 1989, he said. They gathered at Tom Vasilovsky’s house Friday afternoon, while fire crews doused what was left of the flames.
“Everyone was in tears. Some of (the staff) are single moms. It’s Christmas time. It’s a tough thing,” said Vasilovsky, pledging to do what he can to support the staff while the restaurant is rebuilt.
The fire closed Main St. for hours. Police did not suspect foul play. The Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating. Damages were several hundred thousand dollars.