Category Archives: Ghost Town

Mongolia – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Mongolia was a community that grew around the modern intersection of Elgin Mills Road and Reesor Road. Peter De Guere arrived in 1801 and took the north west corner on lot 26. The adjoining lots were soon taken up as people cleared land for farming. As the community grew it got a tavern in 1841 and took on the name California Corners. It was never more than a farming community with a school, Methodist Church, and a Temperance Hall beside the blacksmiths shop. The rural atmosphere was lost in 1972 when the federal government decided that the flat land north of Pickering would make a good site for a future airport. They expropriated the entire town and then never built the airport. Studies show it won’t ever be needed and slowly the government is giving sections of the airport lands to help create Rouge National Urban Park. This is a far better use for the land, although it could still be productive farm land again. To explore and record what remains before it is lost we parked at the trail parking lot on the south east corner of the intersection. From there you can walk up or down Reesor Road to view the old homes or follow the trail to the historic Boyles Pioneer Cemetery. We did both. The 1877 county atlas section below shows many of the homes that still remain as well as the trail to the cemetery, which is marked with a star.

It was in 1853 that James Holden bought the corner of David Nightswanders property and the following year he opened a general store which he operated until 1861. When Nightswander got a post office for the town in 1864 he was told the name California Corners could not be used and so Mongolia was chosen from a list of approved names. A house was added beside the store in about 1870 but the store and post office burned down in 1920, leaving just the house behind. It is now being used as an information centre for Rouge National Urban Park and is one of the few homes from Mongolia that is still in great condition.

Martin Noble built this farm house in1840 and like several other older homes in the community it has been covered in white siding. I wonder if it was built of field stone like so many of the local homes were in the mid 1800s. I think we’ll be able to find out soon as the roof is caving in on this home in spite of it being on the heritage listing for Markham. Mongolia appears to be falling victim to neglect like so many of the heritage properties in the Pickering Airport Lands. It’s interesting that a designated home can’t have unapproved alterations because they can detract from the heritage properties that set it aside for preservation. However, there’s no provision in the listing to require a property to be maintained even though lack of maintenance is seriously detracting from the heritage value of these buildings.

The fields and forests around Mongolia are littered with the neglected dreams of the former inhabitants. Many out buildings, barns and drive sheds remain as well as several abandoned cars and at least a couple of boats. Now that this section of the former airport lands has been designated as part of Rouge National Urban Park it may be that some of this will be demolished while the rest is left to vanish into the new forest as it regrows across the farm fields.

The James Collins house was built in 1850 and was also subjected to white siding which likely hides a lovely brick or stone home on its stone foundation. The entire back side of this house is missing the roof and it won’t be long before this heritage designated home is lost forever.

The drive shed on the property is still in very good condition even though it may have been 50 years since the farm was active.

Another heritage property is the David Burke house from 1850. This home still looks pretty solid but has had all the interior walls stripped down to just the framing. One noticeable alteration to the home is the ground floor windows which have been replaced with smaller ones. Buff coloured bricks have been used to fill in the openings around the smaller windows which hides the alteration from a casual glance.

The Adam Betz house stands on the south west corner lot as it has done since 1851. Another one of the white siding victims in town, it stands an a thick stone foundation that may indicate another beautiful stone house.

Henry Barkey took over the North East corner of the intersection from Jacob Barkey in 1832 and lived near the centre of the lot. In 1860 a blacksmith shop was built near the corner of the intersection and was rented by George Calvert who appears in the 1861 census and the following couple as well.

The tenant in the house next door was usually the blacksmith although after the blacksmith shop closed it was rented to various people until it was taken over for the airport. It still appears to be lived in under a rental arrangement with the government.

School section #22 originally occupied a frame building on the east side of Reesor Road but in 1882 a new brick school house was opened across the street. When the school was closed the building was renovated and continues to serve as a residence.

There is a new trail that leads west from the parking lot and then turns south. It currently runs for only a little more than a kilometre but will eventually connect to a new parking lot on Major Mackenzie Drive. If you keep your eyes open you will find a 1965 Plymouth Fury which has obviously been parked here for quite some time. The Fury model was first released for the 1956 model year and was updated to its fourth generation for 1965.

The Methodist church stood north of the main intersection but its burial grounds were on the property of John Boyles. Located on a small plateau overlooking the river, it stands about 400 meters from the road. The stones have been gathered up and placed into an unusual ground level cairn with the stones lying flat. They may be more subject to the weather than they would be in a more common vertical presentation. There are at least 47 burials commemorated in this cairn and one additional one from 2002 that has a grave marker beside it. Please note that the trail ends before the cemetery and it is not part of the trail. If you choose to visit, please do so respectfully.

The gravestones in this cairn mark the lives of many of the early families in the area. John Boyles was the property owner and he died June 23, 1885 at the age of 91 and is buried here. Catherine Kester died on Sept. 12, 1816 in her 60th year and her headstone is one of the earliest that I’ve photographed anywhere in the GTA.

We previously looked at Brougham, which is another one of the Pickering Airport Lands ghost towns, which has also been left to rot and be demolished. Mongolia has a lot of heritage designated buildings that won’t be around in another ten years because they’re already becoming structurally unsound.

Related stories: For more information about the Pickering Airport check out our post Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google Maps Link: Mongolia

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Eversley – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Eversley, also known as Tinline Corners, developed in the early 1800s at the intersection of 3rd concession (Dufferin Street) and 15 sideroad and was likely named after Eversley, Hampton, England. It never grew to more than a hamlet and in 1869 the population was listed as 29. This included two blacksmiths, two carriage makers, a doctor, a pastor, a butcher, three farmers and James Tinline who was a general merchant and post master. There used to be a few more buildings than the ones that remain but both of the homes in the 1908 archive picture below still stand.

The oldest surviving building in Eversley is the Presbyterian church which was built in 1848. The congregation and the cemetery date to 1834 under a circuit preacher but three years later the local school teacher, John Tawse, took on the role of pastor. In 1860 Dr. James Carmichael became the second pastor and he remained until 1910. When it closed in 1958 the minister from Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto spoke the final sermon. Lady Flora Eaton bought the church in 1960 and handed it over to the York Pioneer and Historical Society because she felt it was important to preserve small town history. She was raised in Omeemee and knew the value of community in a small village. A cemetery is located on the north side of the church but was inaccessible due to the snow. It would be interesting to have a look there for the grave marker of Henry Frost (1816-1851) which has an unusual music motif.

Starting in 1837 the church and school shared a log building a little to the south of the present church. In 1843 a new school was built of red brick just to the north of the log school. After the church moved to their new building the log one was taken apart and used in other buildings. In 1893 a third school building was erected, this time across the road, using buff brick with red accents. In 1961 two more classrooms were added on the front and it operated for another decade. One important teacher from this school’s history is Henry Frost who is responsible for developing the music program for Ontario schools. He taught here from 1850-1851 and then he passed away and was laid to rest in the cemetery across the road.

James Tinline built a store on the north east corner and served as post master when the post office opened there in 1865. Henry Rogers built this house next door in 1887 which he operated as a mercantile. When Tinline’s store burned down, this building was owned by a Mr. Gellatly who took over the post office until it closed in 1928. A side entrance was provided to the family home while the main one served the retail business. This home has had siding, window moldings and gingerbread added since the time of the historic photo above.

Robert Riddett operated a wheelwright shop where he made wagons and carriages on the north west corner of the intersection. It has since been demolished and the land is now under cultivation by a farmer who leases it from Seneca College. Meanwhile in 1900, after the loss of Tinline’s store, James Wells built a new home on the site of the former post office. Flora Eaton later bought the house and it served as the foreman’s dwelling for Eaton Hall Farm across the road.

On the south east corner a cheese factory was opened in 1878 by Job and James Wells. They made butter in the Winter and Spring and then cheese in the Summer and Fall. The cheese factory was closed and then demolished in 1914 but one of the small worker cottages remains as well as several out buildings that are all in poor condition. Alex Hurst also had a blacksmith shop on this corner.

One of the most prominent buildings in the old community of Eversley is the Henry Pellatt barn because it is quite close to15 sideroad. It was built in the early 1920s and later sold to the Eaton family along with 400 acres of land which they added to their estate, Eaton Hall. The foundation is surrounded on four sides with 3 over 3 windows giving it a unique look and allowing lots of light into the animal pens. Henry Pellatt owned Casa Loma and the nearby Marylake estate in the 4th concession.

Starting in the 1920s Eversley was transformed by the arrival of the Eaton family who bought 700 acres in the north west area of the community. We’ve featured many of their buildings in our Eaton Hall post but we left the gate house out due to space limitations. This building is visible from Dufferin Street and is now part of the main entrance to Seneca King Campus.

The Schomberg & Aurora Railway was incorporated in 1896 to connect with the Toronto & York Radial Railway at Yonge Street. Construction began near Bond Lake in 1899 and it opened in 1902. Eversley was served with three stops in close proximity. The first was Eversley Sideroad which was about a kilometer east of town on 15 sideroad. Eversley Station was basically across the road from the entrance to the Eaton Hall gate house. A third stop was located on 16th sideroad and was known as Cider Mill Crossing. June 10, 1927 marked the last run on this line and today the old right of way can be identified from Google Earth and is used for a hiking trail through Seneca King Campus.

The Eaton Horse and Cattle Barn was completed in 1923 and was a notable sight in Eversley until it was destroyed by a fire in 1937. Lady Eaton promptly had it rebuilt but the two silos and clock tower were destroyed in a second fire on April 18, 1966 and were never replaced. The archive photo below shows the barns in their prime.

This ornate latch is found on the old dairy building from the Eaton Hall farm and is a reminder that Eversley has a history that includes the craftsmanship of the local blacksmith.

A sizeable portion of the former community of Eversley is now under the management of Seneca King Campus and there’s plenty of trails to explore. You can park in one of the lots on campus and explore the trails which include the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail. This robin was splashing around in a puddle and complaining about the recent weather.

Eversley has lost most of its residents but many historic buildings remain and none of the small town charm has disappeared.

Related stories: Pioneers of the GTA – Timothy Eaton, Eaton Hall, Toronto & York Radial Railway, Bond Lake, Casa Loma, Marylake

Google Maps Link: Eversley

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Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA

January 9, 2022

Brougham existed for 150 years as a quiet rural community that supported agriculture on the surrounding farms. Brougham had one claim to historical fame that came from a local man named Peter Matthews. The veteran of the War of 1812 was well respected in town and also a vocal supporter of democratic reforms. On December 2, 1837, Peter led a group of local men to join William Lyon Mackenzie in an armed rebellion against the government in Toronto. The rebellion failed but Matthews and another rebel named Samuel Lount were convicted of treason and publicly hanged. Matthews and Lount are buried in The Necropolis in Toronto.

When the excitement died down, Brougham went back to being a quiet hamlet where not much ever happened. That suddenly changed in 1972 when the Federal Government of Pierre Trudeau expropriated the entire community for an airport that it claimed would be operational by 1979. That airport was never built but the lands have been held in trust for a potential future airport.

William Bentley became one of the founders of Brougham after he emigrated from New York State in 1839 and settled in Pickering Township. Along with his brothers, he established a general store as well as a patent medicine factory. William built this house in 1853 at the main intersection of town and it quickly came to represent the prosperity of the community. The home boasts Italianate styling in the architecture including the belvedere on the roof. It’s interesting to see it sitting empty while carrying a Federal Historic Register designation and sitting on a potential airport flight path leading to a runway.

Constructed in 1854 as Pickering Town Hall, this wood-framed building was designed as an open concept meeting area for making community decisions. As such, it is fitting that it became the site of community meetings in 1972 to fight the federal government’s decision to expropriate the community in the name of a new airport. People Or Planes was a larger citizens group from throughout the original expropriated lands and beyond. They banded together and fought to stop the government from going ahead. Their success has kept these lands from being destroyed for the past half a century. For years it read “Pickering Community Hall” but the name has been changed above the entrance to reflect the community that it represented. This building also has a Federal Historic Designation, this one given in 2009. Just beside the community hall is a one-storey Georgian home with dichromate brick veneer that was built in 1860. As I was photographing the community hall the two residents next door asked me what I was doing. When I explained that I was photographing historic buildings we got into an interesting conversation about the community and the airport plans. I haven’t included their home out of respect for them, but it is listed on the Pickering Municipal Heritage Register (PMHR).

Brougham decided to replace their original wooden schoolhouse with a new brick one in 1859. It served the children of the community for 100 years before being closed. Recently it has been used as an art gallery and the building appears on the Federal Heritage Register.

The Wesleyan Methodists came to town early but the small size of the congregation didn’t allow them to have their own full-time pastor. Records indicate that in 1870 they were part of the Pickering circuit in which they shared a pastor on a rotation that included Claremont, Glen Major, Greenwood, and Kinsdale. By 1890 they were able to erect this handsome brick building at the main intersection in town. After 1925 it was known as St. John’s United Church. Today it carries on ministry as Pickering Standard Church and is listed on the PMHR.

The Temperance hall was built in 1880 and is listed on the PMHR. The Temperance Movement sought to restict or ban the consumption of alcohol and got started around 1820. Through various successes and failures they eventually managed to see legislation passed in both Canada and the United States that prohibited the sale of alcohol. The Temperance Hall in Bougham appears to have been raised at some point and a second floor added beneath. This could account for the fact that the brick butresses are not continued on the lower floor making them essentially useless. Early pictures of the main street show the building as it looks today but the windows are not bricked shut.

The former Commercial Hotel was built as a private home in 1860 and later converted into a hotel. It faces Highway 7 on the east end of town and is the last of three hotels that used to serve travelers through the hamlet. The former hotel has some interesting Gothic Revival architectural features. The pointed arch windows in the two second-storey gables are augmented by the decorative bargeboard or gingerbread trim. Each is topped by a finial (the pointed decoration) that makes it distinctive. In 2009 this building was added to the Federal Heritage Register which seems at odds with the plan to level the town for an airport.

The Miller Residence was built in 1880 and is the fifth building in town to appear on the Federal Heritage Register. This house was occupied by several leading families in the community over the years including the Bentleys, Hubbards, and Millers. The house is representative of late Victorian architecture in that it includes several styles such as Gothic Revival bargeboards and Italianate windows with rounded arches.

On the north side of the community hall is this 1 1/2- storey house which was built in 1860. It is typical of many homes that were built in this era with its centre gable and pointed arch window. This house is listed on the PMHR.

Just on the north edge of town, there stands a house that is also listed on the Pickering Municipal Heritage Register. It was built in 1860 and is shown on the County Atlas as being on the property of R. Lambert. The register lists it as the ex-Vanderligt home but on March 16, 2021, a fire broke out in the house. The two occupants were able to escape, but the fire department reported “extensive damage”. It’s unlikely that the federal government will want to restore the building because it solves the problem of yet another building on the PMHR.

Brougham is a community of driveways that go nowhere and vacant lots. With the government owning every property in town with an undisclosed demolition date no one wanted to invest in maintenance. Slowly people moved on and buildings were demolished as they became increasingly dilapidated.

In March of 1972, the federal government announced plans to build a major airport in Pickering to take the expected overflow from Malton Airport (Pearson International). they went ahead and expropriated 18,600 acres (7,530 hectares) and began making plans for construction. By 1975 construction was halted and the farmlands and houses were leased out for interim use. Recent studies suggest that the airport might be needed between 2027 and 2037, but might never be, and the federal government has given two large portions of the land to create Rouge National Urban Park. A study by KPMG concludes that it will not be necessary and Covid may have a lasting negative effect on the airline industry as well. The government remains committed to developing an airport on the reduced lands which include Brougham. The Transport Canada map below shows the original airport site in yellow and the reduced one in purple. Brougham is located in the extreme lower right-hand corner of the site but would be under an approach flight path. Land Over Landings carries on the work of People or Planes in fighting to save not only the communities involved but the farmland as well. There’s a great deal more information that’s available on their website Land Over Landings.

While the government is still actively talking about building the airport, the locals have slowly gone about the job of obtaining historical designations. With almost every property in Brougham listed on one heritage register or another, it will be interesting to see how the Federal Government goes about building an airport in the face of the existing local history.

To read more about the Rebellion of 1837 check out our story Rebel Rebel. You can also check out our story The Necropolis.

Google Maps Link: Brougham

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Hagerman’s Corners – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Hagerman’s Corners developed around the intersection of modern day Kennedy Road and 14th Avenue in Markham, just south of Unionville and north of Milliken. In fact, one of the four corners of Hagerman’s Corners was owned by Benjamin Milliken who donated land for the local school. By the time of the county atlas in 1877 the land was owned by William Milliken. The town had been founded in 1803 by Nicholas Hagerman who bought the property on the north west corner of the intersection.

Hagerman’s Corners never grew larger than a few buildings centred around the intersection. The post office was opened in 1873 and it was joined by a wagon maker’s shop, a hotel and a tavern as well as two churches and a handful of houses. The County Atlas below has green circles around the surviving structures which are featured in this article.

Hagerman’s Corners got its first school in 1858 but the wooden building burned down on April 11, 1888. They immediately set about replacing it with a unique brick schoolhouse. The building was designed by E.J. Lennox who is famous for designing Casa Loma. Rather than having an entrance that faced the street, this school had one on either side. One for boys and the other for girls. In 1966 the last classes were held in the school and it sat empty until 1985. That is when George and Patricia Zarafonitis bought the building and converted it into a restaurant.

Benjamin Milliken II was the son of the founder of Milliken and he built this home in 1855. The Milliken family attended the Presbyterian Church in Hagerman’s Corners and several of the grave markers in that cemetery bear their names.

Almost directly across the street from the Milliken house is the former home of Jesse Noble which was built in 1855. Ambrose Noble had purchased the property in 1826 and granted it to his son Jesse in 1864. The house was renovated and expanded in 1880. Today it serves as part of a bridal shop.

This home was lived in recently enough to have a satellite dish on the roof. It appears to be of 1850s or 1860s construction and could likely be returned to use with a little love and a pile of cash.

There’s only a few 19th century houses left in town and it appears that two of them may have had the same builder. There are two second empire style houses complete with the identifying mansard roof. While not identical, they stand out among the other historic homes.

The second mansard roof is only a couple houses away on the same side of the street. It’s possible that the houses in between were later additions and these homes were once neighbours. A pair of white two story, two bay houses with their imposing roofs.

The hotel in town was known as The Bee Hive Hotel and stood on the north east corner of the intersection. John and Jane Webber ran the hotel before moving their operation to Unionville where they owned The Queens hotel. In 1877 the property belonged to James Fairless who built the house pictured below, which is turned to face the former hotel.

The Presbyterian Church was built almost across the street from the Methodist one. Worship services were held in the little church on the east side of Kennedy Road until the Presbyterian congregation elected to join the United Church in 1925. They merged with the congregation at the newly named Ebenezer United Church at Brimley Road and Steeles Avenue in Milliken. Their original building was demolished shortly thereafter and the 1839 cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery East.

The Hagerman family cemetery was located on the original family farm on the north west corner of the intersection. The family were committed to the Wesleyan Methodist faith and in 1849 land was donated for the use of a cemetery and the construction of a wood framed church building. The original church was replaced with a brick one in 1874 and it stood on the south west corner of the present cemetery lot. The cemetery was recently mapped with ground penetrating radar prior to work on expanding Kennedy Road. The foundations of the old structure showed up on the radar. The cemetery is now known as Hagerman Cemetery West and was founded in 1838.

The Hagerman family were members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and there’s a large section of memorials to them in this cemetery. In general, there are less of the older pioneer limestone tombstones in this cemetery than there are across the road.

In 1876 Robert Armstrong bought a property on the north edge of town from Nicholas Hagerman. The following year he built a story and a half Gothic Revival house on the property and began working the farm. His son Leslie took over the farm in 1903 and most recently the Government of Ontario purchased the property so they could build Highway 407. The house and property are now owned by infrastructure Ontario and the house is listed on the Markham heritage register.

Across from the new high school on Kennedy Road is another original home which belonged to John B Smith. The story and a half house has a full length front porch which was the family entertainment centre in the early days. There’s room for sitting after dinner and watching the world go by, or to have a chat with the neighbours.

Although the area has been highly developed over the past few decades there is a surprising number of buildings remaining that were shown on the county atlas 144 years ago. The same can’t be said for a lot of the ghost towns we’ve visited.

Related Blogs: Milliken Park, Union Mills – Unionville, Unionville – Dating By Design

Google Maps Link: Hagerman’s Corners

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Agincourt – Ghost Towns of the GTA

August 15, 2021

Agincourt remained a small community until 1858 when John Hill was finally successful in getting a post office for his general store at the crossroads of todays Brimley Road and Sheppard Avenue East. The name Agincourt was taken from a town in northern France where a decisive battle was fought in 1415 during The Hundred Years War between Britain and France. The earlier name for the community had been “Hero Town” and that didn’t seem appropriate for the new post office name. The town grew slowly with Hill’s General Store and Post Office being accompanied by Milnes Sawmill and a temperance hall along with a growing number of homes.

Thomas Paterson was one of the founders of Agincourt and started to raise a family in a small log cabin on the east side of todays Kennedy Road. As the family grew, three of his sons built nearly identical homes each taking up a section of the family farm. Thomas Jr. had the middle plot and his home is the lone survivor today. The house was built prior to 1850 and is one of the oldest brick houses remaining in Scarborough. The pictures in this article were taken in December 2020 which is why there are no leaves on the trees.

Hugh Elliot built this house around 1848 and it was expanded with a second floor around 1860. The new roofline is second empire and is the best surviving example of a style that was once quite popular in Scarborough. This house has been given an historical designation and is located on McCowan Road on a property that has been owned by developers since 1981. It has been kept in good maintenance and will be incorporated into a future development.

The house at 33 Murray was built in 1888 by the Kennedy Family who lived there until 1912 when the farm was sold to John Harris. The most interesting family to own the house was perhaps the most recent. Bill White bought the home in 1951 and became known as the first black man to run as a federal election candidate. His years of service led to him being designated as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

2656 Midland was built in 1863 and was originally the manse for the Knox Presbyterian Church. The church was founded in 1848 but this was the first home that they built for the use of the minister. Stylistically, the home reflects elements of the Regency Cottage design with the side porch likely being added at a later date.

The house at 20 Lockie Avenue was the latest farm house in the family of Thomas Archibald Paterson. Thomas Paterson had settled on the farm in 1820 and four generations of men with the same name occupied the farm until the 1950s. This Edwardian style home was built after 1900 and has a rare 3-bay configuration on the traditional four-square design.

School Section 14 was created in 1913 to serve the growing population around Agincourt. Three acres of land were donated by the Paterson Family and the school was constructed at a cost of $12,000. When it opened in 1914 it had 48 students and 2 teachers. By 1921 there were 107 students and still only 2 teachers.

Knox Free Presbyterian Church was founded in 1848 and quickly outgrew its original wood frame building. Forty members attended the first service on June 25 of that year. By 1872 a new sanctuary was required and as the picture below shows, an addition was made to the back as the church continued to grow. They have served the community as Knox United Church since 1925.

The original pioneer cemetery has grown into the Knox United Cemetery. The earliest burial was recorded in 1836, a dozen years before the founding of the church. The next oldest is 1848 perhaps one of the earliest services held in the new church.

Across the street from the church on the south west corner is a large lot that has been proposed as a site for townhomes and a new park. It was formerly a Lumber King Home Centre and then a flea market. The gas station that once occupied the corner of the property has been removed.

14 Allanford Road is a Second Empire home known as Lynn Bank and is designated as a heritage property. Built into the side of a small rise of land it has three floors with the mansard roof providing extra headroom to the bedrooms on the upper floor.

The community of Agincourt has become swallowed up in Scarborough’s ever expanding urban sprawl but the remnants of the early community still survive.

Google Maps Link: Agincourt

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Ghost Towns of York Region

Sunday, June 20, 2021

York Region has many small communities that have shrunk from their late 1800s sizes and faded almost into oblivion. They have lost their industry, blacksmiths and hotels and usually their stores as well. We refer to these as ghost towns although in the strictest sense they aren’t really. This blog collects 7 of the ones that we have visited and arranges them in alphabetical order. Each has a picture that represents the community as well as a brief description. The link for each will take you to a feature article on the community which has the local history as well as pictures of any surviving architectural features. At the end of each feature article is a google maps link in case you should wish to explore for yourself someday. Future companion blogs in this series will cover the ghost towns of the Peel Region, Halton Region, and the City of Toronto.

Cedar Grove still has it’s historic school and Lapp’s Cider Mill but the real treasure is Cedarena. The skating rink operated from 1927 until 2015 and now it sits waiting for skaters who never show up.

Elders Mills formed around a crossroad and thrived for a couple of decades before it went into decline. Several of the original houses and the 1872 school house still remain. A couple of the houses as well as the school have been incorporated into new structures which has saved them from demolition. The homes on the farms around the town have been removed as the land has been cleared for housing.

The former community of Laskay has declined considerably and now the old Methodist Church is a home. A few historic buildings still line the street but the best preserved of all is the old Laskay Emporium which serves as an fine example of a country store and post office at Black Creek Pioneer village. Filled with period merchandise it is a real blast from the past.

Maple has grown into a larger community but there’s still lots of older homes and the historic train station to remind us of the small town that started in the early 1800s. There’s also this amazing log home built with massive timbers that hides in a woodlot on the edge of town.

Ringwood has a lot of abandoned buildings including this 1887 school house which has some interesting wood paneling on the front. At that time, the population was 300 but began declining almost right away until within a few decades there were only 13 students in the school.

Sherwood was larger than Maple at one point but quickly faded into a couple of churches and a few homes. Most of these have since been demolished in order to build a large train switching facility. The Zion Evangelical Church still holds services and has an extensive pioneer cemetery.

Every Ghost Town has its pioneer cemetery where you can check out the old grave markers and remember the people who lived there a couple of hundred years ago. Some even have markers or cairns for Indigenous Peoples who lived here centuries ago and are buried within the community. Teston has both types of burial grounds but neither is well marked and even the pioneer head stones are missing.

Compared to Toronto and some of the other surrounding areas, York Region has still got quite a bit of its pioneer heritage in place.

Other ghost town collections: Ghost Towns of Toronto, Ghost Towns of Peel Region, Ghost Towns of Halton Region.

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Trafalgar – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Most people are familiar with Trafalgar Road but it could just as easily been named Postsville Road. That’s because the early name for the community of Trafalgar was Postsville. The Post Family settled at the intersection of Trafalgar Road and Dundas Street sometime shortly after 1807. Ephriam Post owned two lots #12 NDS (North Dundas Street) on the north east corner and lot 13 SDS on the south west corner. He built an inn on lot 13 and Posts Inn was a busy place serving as a change house for horse drawn stagecoaches that used to operate along Dundas Street. Hiram Post took over the Inn in 1841. The community was known as Posts Corners from 1815 until 1851 when it became Postsville. By the time of the 1877 County Atlas below it had been renamed Trafalgar. The points of interest in the story below have been circled on the map.

The community grew slowly and by 1869 had about 80 residents. There were two hotels, a butcher shop, a grist mill and carriagemaker as well as a blacksmith. It was in 1834 while James Thompson owned the north west corner of Governor’s Road (Dundas Street) and 7th line (Trafalgar Road) that small lots began to be sold for homes along both street frontages. These few homes formed the nucleus of the hamlet of Post’s Corners. The house just north of the corner was built around 1850.

The house next door is one of my personal favourites because although it is simple, and lacks extensive ornamentation, it has a quite unique look to it. The clipped gable on the front might be the only one of its type in the hundreds of historic homes featured in blogs so far. The style is Queen Anne and it was built around 1890 for Dr. Johnstone and his family while he worked as the veterinary inspector for Halton County. He was also the deputy reeve of Trafalgar Township. He died September 3, 1959 and was buried in Munn’s Cemetery where his wife is also interred. The family had been supporting members of Munns Methodist Church. This property is designated for condos but the current plan calls for the preservation of this house. I hope it is restored and put to good use.

James Appelbe came to Canada in 1815 from Ireland and by 1831 had married and settled in Postsville. For a few years he taught school at Munns Corners before becoming a merchant and postmaster. Locally, Appelbe was known as The Squire and was a justice of the peace. He also served as one of the first directors of The Bank of Toronto. Appelbe eventually acquired most of the land around Trafalgar and was one of its best known residents. His 1850 home used to stand closer to the intersection but it has been restored and moved by Great Gulf Homes after it was nearly destroyed by vandals. The house a four full length windows that reach from the floor to the ceiling on the main floor giving it a unique look and plenty of light.

Lot 12 on the North East corner was patented to Hugh Howard in 1807 and by 1820 he was able to build the wood frame house that stood on the property until just recently. John Clements bought the property in 1831 and when he passed away in 1873 it went to his son Matthew. The 1877 county atlas shows the property as M. Clements with two houses on it. This earlier house was lived in recently enough that the picture below shows a window air conditioner. By 2013 when the Cultural Heritage Assessment of Trafalgar Road was conducted the roof had caved in as had some of the walls. It has since been completely demolished.

The second farmhouse on the Clements property was built in the 1870s, likely by Matthew. This stucco farmhouse has been vacant long enough that the front yard is overgrown with hawthorn and other first generation regrowth trees that mask it from the road.

John Clements also owned the property across the road in the 1850’s but by 1877 had sold it to James Morrison who lived here until 1907. The house has belonged to the Bentley family since then but now sits empty waiting to find out what fate the developers have planned for it.

An old blacksmith shop still stands at the corner of Trafalgar Road and Burnhamthorpe Road but it is well on its way to becoming just another foundation in a field. Which means that when the developers arrive in a few years it’ll be gone completely.

John Jones owned the property with the blacksmith shop in the 1880’s and the family house still stands next door. It looks to have been recently abandoned and could be restored easily enough and I wonder what’s behind the siding? Does that gable window have the typical pointed arch of a gothic revival home?

Daniel Munn arrived in 1803 and took possession of the lot at the corner of sixth line and Dundas Street and began clearing his farm. That same year he set aside a small corner of the lot for a church but Methodist preachers would continue to hold meetings in the family home until 1844 when the first frame building was erected. A cemetery was opened across the road and in 1898 the present brick building was consecrated. In 1925 the congregation voted to join the United Church of Canada. When Dundas Street was widened in the 1970’s the church was moved 40 feet back from the road.

Munns Corners cemetery has a lot of older markers as it was also the primary cemetery for Trafalgar. Munn’s Church can be seen across the road.

Daniel Munns grave marker has faded to the point of being unidentifiable but you can still note the names of many of the pioneers on the county atlas above.

The south west corner of Trafalgar is being developed with high rise condos and the remaining farmlands are all owned by developers. It doesn’t seem likely that very much of the original community will remain in ten years time.

Also see our feature Ghost Towns of Halton Region

Google Maps Link: Trafalgar

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L’Amoreaux – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The farming community of L’Amoreaux developed along Finch Avenue after it was founded in 1816 by a French Huguenot family of that name. It never gained much in population but it served a large number of farms in the area. There are still a few original houses as well as an early church and the well known Zion Schoolhouse.

With the ongoing lockdown restricting travel I chose this location to investigate because it could be reached on my lunch from work. I’ve included two County Atlas images which each show the points of interest on their respective sides of Highway 404. The map below shows the Scarborough side of town with two houses marked as well as the cemeteries for the Wesleyan Methodists and the English Church (Anglican).

Christie’s Wesleyan Methodist church stood where the parking lot for Bridlewood Mall is today. This historic picture from around 1896 was found on the Scarborough Historical Society web site. The congregation formed in 1846 and lasted until it was absorbed into the United Church of Canada in 1925. The building was moved to Buttonville in 1938 leaving the cemetery beside it stranded in a field.

A cemetery was opened on Isaac Christie’s lot beside the church with the first burial coming after Permelia Roy passed away on January 10, 1849. The cemetery was closed in the 1930’s and in 1975 was incorporated into a little memorial garden in the mall parking lot. Unfortunately, I noticed that there has been some recent vandalism and at least one stone has been knocked over. There’s around 100 people interred in what is perhaps one of the least sedate of cemeteries in the city.

Isaac Christie along with Isabella Graeme bought lot 33 in Concession 4 in 1836 after emigrating from Ireland. Both are buried in the little cemetery on their farm and their grave markers have been incorporated into a wall for preservation. Several later marble stones still stand throughout the little garden.

Anglican church services were held in the L’Amoreaux log school from 1832 until 1840. A small frame church was dedicated in 1841 and served the community until 1935 when it was destroyed by a fire. The congregation temporarily moved into the Christie Methodist Church and in 1937 began work on a new building. When the city expanded to swallow the little community, they found their building was too small. A new church including senior apartments, seen in the background of the picture below, was dedicated in 1978. After that, the 1937 church was demolished.

Glendinning House was built in 1870 and originally faced onto Pharmacy Avenue when it was a working farm house. It mixes several different architectural styles into what is commonly referred to as Upper Canadian Vernacular. It blends Gothic, Georgian and Victorian traditions which likely marks the various additions that the family made to the home as more room was needed. The house was designated as having historical and architectural value and a notice was served to the developers that they had to incorporate it into the subdivision that was planned for the farm.

The Risebrough house was built around 1860 in the common one and a half story design with a gable and window over the front door. The original cladding has been covered over with aluminum siding but it is believed that the rear kitchen may be the original home. It is currently being used by an Islamic congregation who might lose the right to use the building for religions ceremonies due to problems with parking.

Half of L’Amoreaux was in Scarborough Township and the other part in North York. The three places of interest from the west end of town are circled in green on the County Atlas below. These are the Primitive Methodist Church, Zion School and the property of Sam Kennedy.

The Primitive Methodists built their church on the west end of town and replaced it in 1873 with this buttressed brick building with simple gothic revival accents around the windows. The church is still known as the Zion Methodist Church although it ceased that function many years ago. The building was empty in 1971 when the city acquired it to be used as a community event space.

School section #1 was on the east end of L’Amoreaux and was part of the Scarborough School system while School Section # 12 was on the North York end of town. The cover photo shows the front side of this 1869 building which replaced an earlier school from the 1830’s. The school closed in 1955 and was little altered during its years of teaching. One obvious addition is at the back of the school building where a new chimney was added against the wall when the wood stove was replaced with a furnace for heating. The school sat empty for three decades before it was restored in 1986 and opened as a museum showcasing school in 1910. This is the only one room school in North York that is still in its original location and hasn’t been converted to a residence.

Green Meadows was built as an estate house for John Angus McDougald who made his fortune in the world of high finance. The estate was built in 1950 when the surrounding area was all still in use for farming. Like many of the large estates of the wealthy that were built in the early to mid-20th century this one was set up for horses and various equestrian pursuits such as fox hunting. In spite of its recent construction, the house has been listed for heritage purposes as an example of a country estate.

This aerial picture from 1971 shows the outbuildings that survived the onslaught of development on the neighbouring farms and all but 19 acres of Green Meadows. The last 19 acres was sold for development after 1996. All the out buildings were removed and houses built surrounding the mansion.

The former community of L’Amoreaux is remembered in these few buildings and there’s also a park system that looks like it should be explored at some time in the near future.

Google Maps Link: Zion Schoolhouse

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Ghost Towns of Peel Region

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Peel County has changed over the years since it was created, even taking on the name Regional Municipality of Peel. Some communities were founded that flourished and others that have failed. As time goes on and developers do their work some of these former communities are being eliminated, all except for a ghost of the original community. This blog collects 9 of the ones that we have visited and arranges them in alphabetical order. Each has a picture that represents the community as well as a brief description. The link for each will take you to a feature article on the community which has the local history as well as pictures of any surviving architectural features. At the end of each feature article is a google maps link in case you should wish to explore for yourself someday. Future companion blogs in this series will cover the ghost towns of Halton Region, York Region, and the City of Toronto.

Barbertown is the site of an old mill that is still operating. It has been clad over, hiding its original stone construction. The mill is no longer powered by water and the old sluice gate has been filled in. A tree is growing where the water once ran and it has taken a solid hold on the old crank assembly.

It is common to find an old church standing beside a graveyard. Boston Mills has its old school in its graveyard. That is quite unusual. The railway through town has been closed and turned into a hiking trail and the group of small cottages that once stood on the end of the golf course are falling in on themselves.

Britannia still has several original buildings although like the Gardner home below some no longer stand in their original locations. This 1840’s house has been moved about a kilometer south on Hurontario Street.

Burnhamthorpe reached a maximum of about 100 people in the 1870’s and then began to decline. Several houses and an old church remain and the one shown below was built in 1882. Between 1897 and 1912 it served as a store and the community post office.

Dixie was a small community where each church denomination was too small to afford their own building. The solution was to get together and build a chapel that they all could share. Later they would each grow large enough to erect their own church building and move out of the Union Chapel.

Humber Grove was built in the scenic hollow around Duffy’s Lane and the Humber River. When Hurricane Hazel flooded the rivers in the GTA the government developed a flood control plan that would have built a dam north of the community. Since the valley would have been flooded the existing houses were bought up and removed. The dam was never built and now Humber Grove is now a community of streets and bridge abutments with no residents.

Malton isn’t a true ghost town because there’s still a thriving town, just not the original town where 500 people lived. After the community declined it was overrun by the airport and its associated sprawl. It still has some vintage homes and interestingly enough the empty ones have the windows boarded up and then painted to look like windows.

Mt. Charles is another community that was over-run by the airport and it’s supporting industries. Until recently there were several other buildings, including the blacksmith shop but these have been demolished. John Dale’s house, below, and a few others still survive, as does the cemetery.

Palestine was founded in 1823 but never grew beyond a church, school and a few houses. At one time the Etobicoke Creek ravine held a wastewater treatment plant that has also been removed.

There are still several ghost towns in Peel that we haven’t photographed yet and we’re looking forward to exploring them one day.

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Fairbank – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The community of Fairbank was established in 1835 at the intersection of Dufferin Street (brown), Eglinton Avenue (purple) where Vaughan Road (black) intersected from the southwest. Today, the ghost of this little farming community has almost faded with only two buildings remaining from before 1900. There is some parking on Hopewell Avenue across from Walter Saunders Memorial Park. From here you can access the York Beltline Trail and the other places in this story are just a short walk north and then south on Dufferin Street. The map below was taken from the 1877 County Atlas and marks the location of the two remaining buildings with circles.

Jacob P. Ross owned the property outlined in blue on the map above. The house was built in 1855 and is the last surviving original house in the former community of Fairbank. The pediments on the west side mark it as neoclassical in style. It is a one and a half story farm house clad in brick, stone and wood. There have been several additions to the house over the years but the original home can be identified by the four quarter-round brackets set in the corners. Standing in a modern subdivision the house appears to be facing the wrong way compared with its neighbours, although it directly faces Dufferin Street

One of the interesting features of this house is the doorcase. Very often in early architecture in Ontario the face of the house was very plain with just the doorcase being more intricately detailed. In this home it is recessed from the front wall leaving no sidelight windows. There’s a plain set of windows in the transom and the date in the lintel above the door.

The Fairbank Village BIA uses the following picture in their promotions of the local business district as they recall the town history. The left side of the picture shows three streets from top to bottom. These are Dufferin Street, Vaughan Road and Eglinton Avenue. On the southeast corner of Eglinton and Dufferin is what appears to be a small Tollkeeper’s Cottage. Dufferin Street was formerly known as the Gore and Vaughan Plank Road and would have had toll gates at major intersections.

Matthew Parsons was just 19 when he arrived and bought York West Concession 3 Lot 3 which he developed into his family farm. He named his property Fairbank Farms (outlined in green above) and from this the community took its name. Then in 1837 he was arrested as a rebel and accused of supporting William Lyon MacKenzie in his rebellion. Parsons was never charged and his good name was restored when he donated land in 1844 to the Methodist Congregation who had been meeting in the local school. They built a frame structure which was replaced in 1889 with the brick building that has continued to serve the United Church since the name change in 1925.

Fairbank Presbyterian Church began in 1889 on Fairbank Avenue but moved to a new larger building at the corner of Eglinton and Dufferin in 1914. The building bears a two date date-stone marking both of these milestones. In 1925 it joined the United Church and in 1931 took the name St. Cuthbert’s United Church to distinguish itself from he Fairbank United Church a little north on Dufferin Street. It closed in 2001 and the building has been occupied ever since by the British Methodist Episcopal Christ Church. This denomination started in Toronto in 1845 as a church founded by freed slaves. There are only 9 churches of this denomination in Ontario and only one other in Toronto. When they lost their building to fire in 2001 they were able to move into the old Fairbank Presbyterian Church which was recently vacated.

Fairbank got a post office in 1874 and quickly developed into a crossroads community with Francis McFarlane running one of the hotels and serving as postmaster. In July of 1890 Fairbank Village Parish was set up to provide Anglican services for the community, meeting in the ballroom of McFarlane’s Hotel. In 1893 they opened their own church on Vaughan Road at the intersection with Dufferin Street. St Hilda’s church is pictured below in a 1934 photo from the Toronto Public Library.

In the early 1970’s the congregation decided to build affordable housing for seniors and three towers and a new church building were constructed.

By the late 1880’s the city was booming and land speculation along the edges of Toronto began. One creative scheme involved building a commuter line to join the suburbs with the downtown core. Known as the Belt Line Railway the developers proposed to build houses in the areas of Forest Hill and Fairbank. The line began operations in 1892 with a fare of 5 cents between each of it’s stops. However, the timing was bad as a recession meant that the houses weren’t built and the passengers never showed up. Service only lasted for 28 months before it was closed. Some sections continued to be used for industrial purposes but eventually all the tracks were removed. Today, the old Belt Line has been converted into a ribbon park with a multiuse trail. We’ve reviewed the Beltline in three sections previously telling its history and showing the areas where it ran. From the Fairbank end moving east then south the stories are: York Beltline Trail, Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail and Moore Park Beltline Trail.

The steel bridge over Dufferin Street is the third structure that survives in Fairbank from the 19th century. Only two original bridges survive from the Beltline with the other one being at Yonge Street where the old railway goes by the name of The Kay Gardner Beltline Trail. The trail passes through Fairbank on a raised berm and provides a trail that connects the west end of Fairbank with the Don Valley Brick Works and then on to the Lower Don Trail.

Fairbank was filled in with development between the two world wars erasing much of its original character. The fact that it was developed in the inter war period is perhaps apropos considering that it’s known for Prospect Cemetery where many military veterans are buried.

Google Maps Link: Fairbank

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