Ringwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Jan. 21, 2018

George Fockler bought 200 acres of land at the intersection of the Markham-Stouffville Townline (Stouffville Road) and the 8th concession (Highway 48, Markham Road) and moved his family from Pennsylvania in the late 1790’s.  George owned the northwest corner of the intersection and later his son Sam bought the north east corner lot and built a hotel there.  Revere House opened in 1809 and stood until 1957 when it was demolished to allow for road widening.  The original crown survey created a system of road allowances that were 1 chain (66 feet) wide and this was suitable for the horse and buggy system that was in place at the time.  Stores and hotels were often built close to the road and countless numbers of these structures have disappeared across Ontario as roads get widened to four lanes.  This late Victorian house is for sale and looks like it wouldn’t take too much to fix it up and make it livable again.


Ludwig Wideman arrived in Ringwood along with his parents in 1805.  Thirty years later when William Lyon Mackenzie was fomenting rebellion, the area of Whitchurch Stouffville was firmly on Mackenzie’s side.  Ludwig joined up with the rebels at Montgomery’s Tavern and became one of the casualties there when the rebellion failed on Dec. 7, 1837.  The picture below shows one of a dozen abandoned homes in the former core of Ringwood.


George Sylvester came from Ringwood, England to the growing community and opened a general store on the north west corner of the intersection.  In 1856 the new post office in town was located in his general store and he named the town Ringwood after his hometown.  The name stuck but the residents took to calling the town Circle City in jest.  The post office survived until 1970 when the population had decreased to just 40 and it was replaced with mail boxes, one of which stands where the Revere House used to be.


According to the Annual Report of the Bureau of Industries for the Province of Ontario, A. B. Grove operated a cheese factory in town in the early 1890’s, one of two at the time.  A Chevrolet dealership was established in town by 1928 and was run by the McKenzie family and employed 7 people.    This barn still stands in what was once downtown Ringwood and would have been behind the Revere House Hotel, before it was demolished.  It may have served as stables at one time.


The Lehman house was built around 1870 and there is most likely is a patterned brick house hiding behind the veneer of siding that was been added at a later date.


At the peak, Ringwood had two of many of the standard small town professionals, 2 hotels as well as two general stores, shoe shops, carriage makers, cheese makers, sawmills and blacksmiths.  By the 1850’s a plank road had been built between Stouffville and Richmond Hill and it was served by a stagecoach that would stop at Ringwood to take on passengers.  This sprawling Victorian house once stood among these vanished businesses on the main street of town.


One of the last businesses to close in Ringwood was the diner.  It is reported to have become a biker hangout in the last days of operation.  It stands at the corner of Markham Road and Stouffville Road, which used to have a slight jog in it.  This was where the surveys in the two townships on either side of the road didn’t quite align and an adjustment was made.  When the roadway was widened and straightened in 1957 one of the hotels, a harness shop, several homes and two garages were demolished.


The one room Ringwood school was built in 1838 and was known as a union school section because it served students from two townships.  This is because Ringwood sat on both sides of the town line.  As the town grew the school became too small and was replaced with this dichromate brick building in 1887.  The town population had swelled to 300 by this time.  Twenty years later there were less than 200 people in town and by 1939 there were just 13 students enrolled in the school.  That was the year that the school trustees voted against installing electric lights or hiring a dedicated music teacher.  The $1200 salary for the one teacher was already more than the budget would allow.  The school closed in 1971 and then was used by the Bethel Pentecostal Assembly as a church building.  Today it sits empty with an unknown future.


With the arrival of the Toronto and Nippising Railway and also the Lake Simcoe Junction Railway in Stouffville, the decline of Ringwood began.  The railway provided access to markets and the businesses of Ringwood packed up and moved down the road.  The picture below shows the view looking from the main intersection into Ringwood where the once bustling main street now has only a few boarded up houses.


West of the main intersection a strip of original Ringwood remains in use, although there is a development sign here too.    The Christian Church was built in 1868 but has recently been converted into an interesting looking residence.  This lovely little 1860’s house should be preserved, in my opinion, along with several others that are still inhabited, but endangered by the Ringwood Secondary Plan.  It calls for mixed use commercial / residential in this area.


There is a new master plan for the redevelopment of Ringwood that will likely see the removal of most of the buildings in this post within the next two years.  I’m glad I got to visit before this happens.


Google Maps Link: Ringwood

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25 thoughts on “Ringwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA

  1. Christa Adler

    Ghost Towns gone soon
    Lacking respect for historic buildings, what will left be for future generations, some old houses are beyond repair because of neglect , a few may still be saved,
    Only photographs hardly anyone will be interested in or a sign if it was a more important building, our government should be concerned about our history and historical societies could be lobbying the government to spend money on repair and upkeep , may be they can be revitalized
    as tea houses or gift shops .
    Has anyone seen the 800 year old houses in Europe , admired by tourists cherished by locals?
    Roads can be rerouted l am certain if saving an old farmstead is desired.
    Not the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Victoria, Regina , Quebec City etc, people lived in these small houses having made this country an outstanding nation telling the story of the land , our roots.

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  3. Frances Critchley-Moore

    What a fascinating article, thank you for writing it. We used to rent the “sprawling Victorian” house in the early ’90’s – it was haunted!

      1. Fred Robbins

        Than you. I am trying to put together some history for that house do you know any past owners.

      2. Frances Critchley-Moore

        We think the owner at the time was Lloyd Britton, the same guy who owned the car dealership (Britton Auto Sales), which at the time was just west of us on Stouffville Rd. We lived there 1989-1993. We were subletting the upper floor from a man called Paul Simpson who lived on the main floor and was a toy maker. Some spooky things happened while we lived there and later we heard there was the ghost of a Victorian little girl that others had seen.
        Are you a track coach? If so, my husband Neil Moore knows you…

      3. Fred Robbins

        Yes I also am head Coach for York Region Runners Club (yrrc.ca) I am trying to find the Victorian family. Will let you know if I find anything else. I knew Lloyd Britton well. I have been in Stouffville since 1978.

  4. Ian Wightman

    Fascinating article, I lived in Ringwood from January 1957 to September 1965. The second picture of the yellow Victorian house was where we lived. At the time a family called Olgivy lived in the old red Victorian on the south side. There was a great apple orchard behind it.
    This article brings back many memories of my childhood. Thanks for writing it.

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    I grew up here 30 years . Seen a native ghost . Chased a person from my fort to never catch up
    Stopped when i realized it wasnt leaving shoe marks in the snow . Just moving farther away

  7. Elaine Harman

    I knew Lloyd Britton and Maggie really well. All their kids too. Loved Ringwood. My Harman family lived there too. Jake and his kids.

  8. Cathy Castor

    Hello! Great article. Thank you so much for writing it. We love hearing the history of our community.
    Just to confirm is the yellow Victorian house haunted and is it currently for sale? Or is the red Victorian house the one that is haunted? I wish these were salvaged and restored.

    Also, is the yellow house owned by the same person who owns the land on the north east corner of Hwy 48 & Stouffville Rd?

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  11. Peter Attfield

    My earliest memory of Ringwood is from the 1960s, driving along Highway 48 between Toronto and Muskoka on summer weekends. I remember an old vacant hotel close to the southwest corner of Stouffville Road. It was interesting to me then as a boy because it resembled hotels I’d seen in TV shows about early Canada. I think it was two storeys (possibly three storeys?) tall. All white-painted wooden siding. And “RINGWOOD HOTEL” may have been painted on the side with black letters, though I can’t remember that for certain. Does anyone else remember that hotel?

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  14. Wendy Thompson

    We moved to Ringwood in 1951 from Spadina Rd, this was to avoid the planned Spadina expressway which never happened. I attended Ringwood Public School, favorite teacher was Carl Grove from nearby Dickson Hill. It is sad to see the demise of my hamlet and eventual elimination. My father Walter Lee was a school trustee, he commuted daily to downtown Toronto for his profession. I continue to live in the area. Wendy Thompson (Lee).

  15. Muriel Ganny

    My maiden name was Muriel Loveless (now Ganny) my parents farmed about a mile and a half north of Musslemans Lake. I went to Teachers College 1961-1962, I did a weeks practice teaching at that small one room school the teacher’s name was Miss Crone. I remember a general store on the north east corner owned by I believe Ken Phillips. Good memories.

    1. Suzanne Davidson

      My dad (Ken Phillips) would always say “There’s my store” as we passed by. We were gullible kids lol

    2. Harvey Baker

      I went to high school with a Bruce Loveless who lived at the corner of ninth line south and Main st. He had a brother Harvey. His mom was married to Henry Ogden at the time

  16. Mina Montroy

    Thanks for sharing the history of Ringwood, my family the Mehaffey’s lived there for many years!

  17. James Ogilvy

    Thank you for the memories. My family lived in Ringwood from 1950 to 1967. I grew up in the red brick house that you have pictured here on the south side of the Stouffville Road (almost across the road from Ian Wightman, one of your earlier correspondents), and attended the old one-room school before a second room was added in about 1955. What I understand about the house’s history is that it was built around 1874 by a Mr Daniels; my parents purchased it in 1950 from George Abel. I wasn’t aware that it was haunted! Wonderful memories, tinged with sadness when I consider the state of most of the old landmarks.

  18. Shirley Bassett Woodward

    Thanks for sharing. I was born in one of those little houses on Hwy 48. The year was 1939. Our name was Bassett.


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