Canada's History

Ghost Towns of Ontario’s Cottage Country

- by Andrew Hind Dundurn Press, 198 pages, $25.99

When driving through Ontario’s Muskoka and Parry Sound regions, one encounters old road signs and abandoned buildings along the highways that hint at nearly forgotten past times. In his book Ghost Towns of Ontario’s Cottage Country, respected local historian Andrew Hind does a terrific job of bringing these often-short-lived communitie­s back to life. He unpacks the stories of how these places came to be and of the people who gave their heart and soul to the endeavour.

The book is organized into chapters regarding thirteen communitie­s across three regions of Ontario, and it includes helpful maps plus wellcaptio­ned black- and- white photos. It’s the perfect “cottage read,” whether you devour it all at once or in chapters between daytime hikes and jumps in the lake.

I was particular­ly intrigued by the story of Kiosk, a community that is now effectivel­y just a campground on the edge of Algonquin Park. It’s hard to imagine that in the late 1800s and into the mid- 1900s it was a thriving lumber town of six hundred people, boasting a mill, a post office, and a railway station. Then, in 1969, rumours emerged regarding the Ontario government’s plans to expand the provincial park. The mill owners decided to sell and to move elsewhere, before a devastatin­g 1973 fire destroyed the mill, sealing its fate.

Hind’s writing is so compelling that readers will want to visit these places for themselves. The author encourages this by providing driving directions at the end of each chapter, and — for people too far away to make a trip — blog posts on his website. — Deborah Morrison

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