Depot Harbor, located about 8 kilometres from Parry Sound, is the second largest ghost town in Ontario. I say “second largest” because there is another contender to the throne. Nevertheless, at its height 1,600 permanent residents, and an estimated summer population of around 3,000, called Depot Harbor their home. John Rodolphus Booth, who at the time owned the largest lumber empire in North America, started the community in 1899.
Depot Harbor began as a railway and shipping centre for Booth. To that end, he needed a port where he could consolidate his shipping operations and have clear passage directly to the Atlantic Ocean. The shipping facilities included a harbour, roundhouse, grain elevators, and other rail and shipping structures. The townsite included stores, a three-storey hotel, butcher shop, three churches and a school.
Depot Harbor’s problems began in 1923 after the newly formed Canadian National Railway (CN) absorbed the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway. CN immediately began consolidating its holdings and shutting down duplicate services and facilities. Accordingly, the roundhouse at Depot Harbour was one of the early casualties, followed by closure of the entire rail line in 1933.
During the Second World War, CN leased the village’s elevators and warehouses to Canadian Industries Limited (CIL) to store cordite, a highly explosive substance used in the war effort.
Tragedy struck on August 14, 1945. Although no one is quite sure what happened, one colourful story alleges that flaming debris from a fireworks display hit the elevators. Another story cites arson. Whatever took place, there was a massive explosion that destroyed both the elevators and harbour. Abandonment of the town began shortly afterwards.
Depot Harbor has no buildings, however there are plenty of ruins. These include stairs, cellar holes, the striking remains of the roundhouse and plenty of former structures along the water. Those include the roundhouse, and the harbour and shipping facilities. If you are plan to be visit be away the community is on native-owned land and you need permission to explore the property. Learn more