Marlbank is recognized as one of the greatest ghost towns in Ontario. Named by Dr. James Allen (a pioneer of the first canals & mills that established the settlement) after the marl (clay mixed with carbonate of lime) that is prevalent in the area. In 1890, the English Portland Cement Company of Canada discovered that the village produced the most prized and durable cement.
Cement from the plant was used in the construction of a number of famous projects, including the Panama Canal (1904-1914) and the Quebec Bridge (1900-1907). The influx of workers to operate the plant during the boom was sufficient to support ten stores, a bakery, barber shop, 2 hotels, a bank, millinery shop, tinsmith, 3 blacksmiths, saw & grist mills, apiary, cheese factory, pool hall, doctor and a cheese factory.
If you go to Dry Lake, just east of the village of Marlbank, you can swim on marl beaches. The marl is a gray coloured, clay-like substance that is said to be very good for your skin.
Today there is little more than a few remains of the old cement factory, on the northeast side of the lake, beside Marlbank Road *County Rd 13.
The Marlbank Phoenix Tavern
In 1904, a fire erupted at the site which currently contains the tavern, but the building was rebuilt in 1905, and was known as The Stinson House. The owners opened their doors and served beverages to patrons. In 1907 the building and ownership changed hands to Mr. William O’Keefe, who renamed the pub after himself, calling it the O’Keefe House, shortened and regularly referred to as the “O.K. House”. The business held fast to this name through several years and owners until 1938 when Sam Schell dubbed the building “The Marlbank House”. After a fire destroyed most of the building again in 1994, the tavern’s name changed once more, quite fittingly, to “the Marlbank Phoenix Tavern”. From early 2009 the Tavern was closed for almost two years and left to fall into disrepair. Two local residents, Ray and Ivy Hutchinson, and their son David took it upon themselves to rescue this historical landmark and after major renovations, the Marlbank Phoenix Tavern was reopened for business in January 2011. Read more about the alleged haunting of the tavern: