Residential School in Spanish, Ontario by Wikimedia Commons
Have you ever wondered what will happen to your home after you die, or what would happen to your town if all the industry in the area went bankrupt or if all the kids simply decided to move somewhere else? Okay, these are not exactly the kind of thoughts we get on a daily basis, but trust me: if you visit one of the numerous abandoned towns in Ontario, you’ll start asking these questions right away.
There are hundreds of abandoned towns (often referred to as ghost towns) in Ontario that are worth seeing. You can hardly experience a stronger feeling of historical inevitability — even the cheesy phrase “nothing lasts forever” gets a whole new meaning here. Each of the abandoned towns has its own story. Some communities died off due to economic downturns, some had to close their mines as they ran out of resources, and others were cut off from the world due to shifts of the main transportation routes or the removal of railway connections, or got destroyed by natural disasters. Here are a few tips for an interesting trip to some of the ghost towns in Ontario.
Depot Harbour by Special Collections Toronto Public Library
1. Depot Harbour
Depot Harbour is considered to be the largest abandoned town in Ontario. It used to have more than 1,600 permanent dwellers and served as a railway and shipping crossroad. The town’s luck began to fade away after the bankruptcy of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1923, which ultimately lead to the closure of the railway connection within ten years. However, the real catastrophe struck the town during the Second World War, as a warehouse full of highly unstable material (cordite), exploded and destroyed most of the harbour, which was never rebuilt. Nowadays, visitors can find plenty of ruins in the area.
2. Ball’s Falls
After two British officers, John and George Ball got an extensive lot of land, containing two picturesque waterfalls, as a reward for their services in 1812, Ball’s Falls was established. Two men started with construction of a grist mill right away and within couple of years, they boasted a prosperous community. However, things only went well until the newly-built railway bypassed the village and moved the new industries closer to the trail. Although Ball’s Falls slowly died off over the years, the old wooden grist mill and the Ball homestead stay preserved and form a core of a recreated pioneer town with interesting walking tour for tourists.
African Episcopal Methodist Church in Ontario by Gemma Grace
3. Wilberforce Street
This community was founded as a small British colony in the 1820s to support a black settlement in the area. Soldiers from the war of 1812 formed most of the population. It seems that the main problems of the community were linked to their unsuccessful farming attempts due to little experience in agriculture, and most inhabitants moved on to other jobs and left the town by the late 1880s. Now, tourists can visit the well preserved and renovated African Episcopal Methodist Church in the town.