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Simcoe House Hotel – The last remaining stage coach stop on historic Simcoe County route

April 2020

Halfway between Barrie, Ontario, on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay, and Penetanguishene, on Georgian Bay, is the Village of Hillsdale.

Running through Hillsdale is Simcoe County Road 93, following a historic and once very important trade and military route. Dating back to the early days of British North America, this was the primary route between Lake Simcoe and the Royal Naval Establishment at Penetanguishene.

In the days of horse and stagecoach travel, this 34 mile journey could take several days to complete. The abandoned and crumbling Simcoe House Hotel is the last remaining of around 50 stage coach stops that once lined this historic route.

The present building is believed to date back to 1882, built for landowner Charles Davis, on the site of a tavern that goes back to the 1850s.

The builder is reported to be William John Davenport, a freed slave who came with his family from the United States and were the first black settlers in Hillsdale in 1819.

Over the years, the hotel has gone by several different names, such as Alma House, O’Neil Tavern and Hillsdale Hotel, and has seen many different uses, such a dentist’s office, post office, polling station, ice cream station and a YMCA.

The hotel was designated a historic building in 1990 by the former Township of Medonte, but boundary changes now have it laying within the Townsip

It has also faced the specter of demolition, with the Township of Springwater declining to spend the money to restore the building.

Sources: https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/Simcoe-House-Hotel-abandoned-Ontario_loc1920.html, https://www.simcoe.com/community-story/2005405-historic-hotel-faces-demolition.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/simcoe-house-hotel-the-last-remaining-stage-coach-stop-on-historic-simcoe-county-route/

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