Tag Archives: Flynntown

Ghost Towns of Toronto

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Within the present boundaries of the City of Toronto lie the sites and remains of all the small communities that used to surround the city when it was much smaller. Some of these places have very nearly disappeared but if you know where to look there is still a ghost of the community that once was. This blog collects 12 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 Regions of Peel, Halton, and York, excluding Toronto.

Armadale sat at the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Markham Road. It bordered with Markham which is on the north side of Steeles Avenue. Today there are five historic houses as well as the oldest continually serving Free Methodist Church in Canada. It was built in 1880 and its cemetery and parsonage still survive as reminders of a simpler past.

Claireville was started in 1850 and became a toll stop on the Albion Plank Road. It grew to 175 people but today has fallen back to just a few houses in an industrial park. It is flanked by a section of Indian Line which has been cut off and abandoned.

The town of Downsview was named after a home that was called Downs View. It was built in 1844 by a Justice of the Peace who sometimes locked up the convicts in the cells in his basement. The town is mostly gone now but the 1860 Methodist Church still stands.

The town of Eglinton has been completely absorbed into Toronto but there’s still a few clues to the community that grew at Yonge and Eglinton. The second school was built in the 1890’s and that has been absorbed into John Fisher School.

Jacob Fisher got a land grant in 1797 at Dufferin and Steeles where mills attracted a small community who built a Presbyterian Church in 1856. That church building survives at Black Creek Pioneer Village but the rest of the community of Fisherville has vanished.

Flynntown is marked by the remains of its milling industries. There are rough hewn logs that are the remainders of an early saw mill and a much later set of concrete weirs that are the remains of the dam across the Don River.

Lambton Mills grew up on both sides of the Humber River and several early homes and the hotel still survive. Lambton House was built in 1848.

By 1837 the community of Norway had grown to about 80 people centred on the toll station on Kingston Road at Woodbine. A few older buildings still line Kingston Road but the most obvious reminder of the community is the Norway Anglican Church which was built in 1893.

The town of Oriole was a thriving industrial site with seven mills and a brickyard on The Don River at Sheppard and Leslie. Road expansions have eliminated most of the physical history but one of the old dams still survives.

The town of Richview has disappeared under the intersection of highway 401 and 427 and their various on ramps. All that remains is the cemetery which is surrounded by the highways and can only be accessed off of Eglinton Avenue.

A couple of churches survive to mark the old community of Wexford. St. Judes, pictured below, was built in 1848.

York Mills grew up around several mills on the Don River where it crossed Yonge Street. Several older homes have survived as has the York Mills Hotel which was built in 1857.

Toronto had small communities that sprouted up at nearly every cross roads on the edges of town. The march of progress has wiped most of these places off the map but small hints are there to remind us of these little bits of our past.

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Flynntown – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Last week we visited the former community of Oriole at Sheppard Avenue and Leslie Street and made a short excursion north that only made it as far as Newtonbrook Creek.  To pick up where that hike left off, we took advantage of free street parking on Alamosa Drive and Gatehead Road where there is an entrance to the park.  The next community north along the river was known as Flynntown and was located around the intersection of Leslie and Finch.  Like Oriole, it formed around the mill sites that were prominent along the Don River in the first half of the 19th century.  It too was a name applied to a postal district in much the same way that we use postal codes today.

The 1877 county atlas below shows the area of the hike with the section of the East Don River that we covered being outlined in blue.  A small tip of German Mills Creek is coloured leading to the right near the top of the map.  We started at the former property of William Dunton where we looked for the remains of the saw mill built by Phillip Phillips. Old Cummer Road has been coloured in black and we followed the short piece that runs on an angle from the stream up to where it meets the grey line marking the new section of Cummer Road.  Cooper’s grist mill is shown where the new road meets the older section.

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Near the bottom of the hill when you enter the park off Alamosa Drive you will find a set of tennis courts.  Near the courts, beside the river, is a pole with life saving equipment on it.  That marks the spot where Philip Phillips built his saw mill in the early 1800’s.  The wood for the mill was rough hewn by hand indicating that it was prepared before the mill went into operation.  After the saw mill was up and running the wood produced displayed the obvious signs of being cut with a blade or wheel.  The houses and barns closest to the mill would have been constructed with wood that had been prepared at the saw mill.  The picture below shows the remains of what is most likely part of the wooden crib for the old mill dam.  The only other place we have seen the wooden crib preserved is at the Barber Dynamo.  One of the mill mapping sites reports that these are actual timers to the saw mill.

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Tree Swallows are highly social birds and can form flocks of thousands around their nesting sites.  They breed in Canada and the United States but spend the winter in Mexico, the Carribean and throughout Central America.  Their genus name is tachycineta bicolor which comes from the ancient Greek for “moving quickly” and the bicolor from their two coloured markings.  The males have much brighter blue-green upperparts while the females tend to have duller colours.  The female needs to hide on the nest for two weeks before the eggs hatch and another three before the young ones are ready to leave the nest.  The brighter male likes to be obvious as he dive bombs intruders to protect the nest.

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Following the trail north of Finch Avenue brings you to the intersection of Old Cummer Road and the century-old bridge across the river.  The single-lane bridge was replaced when the surrounding farms were developed for housing.  In 1968 the new portion of Cummer Road (grey on the map above) was opened and this became Old Cummer Road and was closed to through traffic.

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The road north of the closed bridge has been largely overgrown and the former pavement has all but vanished.  Cummer operated a saw mill and a woollen mill on the river near his home but it closed in 1857 and all traces are now lost.

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Crossing under the new Cummer Road bridge, the trail quickly follows a pedestrian bridge to the east side of the Don River.  We chose a small path that led along the west side but after crossing a drainage ditch the trail quickly vanished.  Our intention was to find any evidence of the mill site or dam that was shown on the county atlas.  The mill appears to have been somewhere near the new bridge and no trace exists.  The concrete dam we found on Cooper’s property would have been built here long after the mill had closed and would have replaced a wood crib dam.  The mill pond shown on the map has been drained.  The cover photo shows the dam from the downstream side while the picture below shows the upstream side.

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This dam looks more like an electrical generating dam than one used to store water for mill operations.  A large building stood  near the end of the dam but all traces of it have vanished today.  What remains is an old utility pole that has a large transformer attached to the top along with several old light sockets.  A second electrical pole is leaning into the trees a little farther upstream.

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Returning to the main trail, we crossed the Don River and went up the east side to explore the dam from that vantage point.  Near this place, German Mills Creek empties into The Don.  German Mills Creek flows for about 10 kilometres as a left tributary of the East Don River.  It gets its name from the community of German settlers who, in 1796, became the first pioneers in Markham Township.  The settlement of German Mills fell apart after only a few years but the name has been preserved via this creek.  The bridge across the creek has been here for a long time and formerly provided access to the mills and other establishments in the valley.  Today this little bridge supports the traffic along the hiking trail that follows the former roadway.

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The picture below shows German Mills Creek and the confluence with the East Don River as seen from the old bridge over the creek.

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The Don River is interwoven with the early history of Toronto and York County and there will always be more to explore another day.

Google Maps Link: Flynntown

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