Airport Road Travelogue
Part VI: The Road to Mono

Previous: Brampton and Caledon

The View from the Dufferin County Museum

The Town of Mono

Crossing Highway 9, I officially leave the Greater Toronto Area and enter the County of Dufferin, and here the character of Airport Road changes dramatically. In Caledon East, I entered Escarpment Country. North of Caledon, Escarpment Country goes into overdrive. The rolling fields of Caledon have given way to the rugged highlands of the Town of Mono (pronounced “Moe-No” by its residents).

Dufferin County is the headwaters of rivers running into no less than three Great Lakes. These rivers cut deep gorges into the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, both of which pass through the area. The rugged terrain challenged road builders. Airport Road is as steep as a roller coaster in places and surrounded by distractingly beautiful scenery.

At the entrance to Dufferin County, a sign helpfully notes that 62 car drivers have died here since 1978, so drive slowly. Heading down a hill with my foot off the accelerator, a chance look at the speedometer reveals that I’m travelling at over 100 kph, and there’s a tight turn ahead. I spend a lot of time in Mono Township putting on the brakes.

“People come to Mono because of the scenery,” says Town of Mono Chief Adminstrative Officer Keith McNenly. “They take in the hills and the valleys and the rivers. Our fall tours are quite spectacular, but you shouldn’t forget spring, where we have a thousand shades of green.”

“I’ve been here since the early 1970s,” says McNenly. “I was drawn here because I wanted to build a house, and land here was affordable. What keeps me in Mono is the countryside and the nature we’ve been able to preserve; the pristine streams, the open vistas. It’s one of the nicest pieces of country around.”

Mono has taken steps to ensure that the vistas which make the town so desirable are protected. Most development has been limited to areas around Orangeville in the southwest corner of the town. The Niagara Escarpment Commission further protects lands around the Niagara Escarpment, and the provincial government’s new greenbelt plan is protecting areas around the Oak Ridges Moraine, ensuring that the area’s natural beauty draws in tourists.

“There’s the Bruce Trail and two provincial parks,” says McNenly, “Mono Cliffs with its scenic caves and crevices, and Hockley Valley. We also have a lovely golf course spa and resort at Hockley Valley, and a conference centre and hotel at Hockley Highlands. We have a number of historical towns and restaurants at Hockley Village. The Globe Hotel in Rosemount — which is a restaurant and not a hotel. We have a group of businesses in Violet Hill, near Mulmur (the Schoolhouse restaurant). Then in Mono Centre, we have a lovely historic restaurant.”

Mulmer Township

Coming out from the hills of the town of Mono, I hit a rare stretch of flatter land, and am almost immediately at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 89. On the northeast corner is a replica barn and silo, a place where I’ll be stopping for a while.

I have been invited by archivist Steve Brown to the Dufferin County Museum and Archives, established at this site twelve years ago. The barn provides a spacious venue to house the county’s historical collection, including a real log cabin. For a five dollar admission fee, I’m treated to interesting displays, stained-glass windows, paintings, and a glorious view atop the four storey tall silo.

Steve Brown more than shares my love for old maps; indeed, it’s his job. He is happy to let me handle delicate topographical maps and old history books, and he eagerly walks me through the history of Airport Road, back when it was called the Mono Road.

In a thick, wire-bound document, typewritten fifty years ago, I learn that Mono Township was the ultimate destination of settlers travelling up the Sixth Line from Toronto. As early as 1824, the Mono Road took passengers from Montgomery’s Inn (which can still be found at the corner of today’s Dundas Street and Islington Avenue in the middle of Etobicoke) to the settlements of Caledon, Albion and Mono. The stretch between today’s Eglinton Avenue and Dundas Street was little more than a foot trail.

The Sixth Line was as important a road in the opening of Caledon Hills as Hurontario Street (Mississauga’s Main Street) and Albion Road, but because Airport Road was never designated as a provincial highway, it gets ignored in the local history. But Steve Brown remembers.

“The Mono Road was a favourite route for bringing goods from Mono and Orangeville down to Toronto,” says Brown. “My grandfather told me that his father would slaughter his hogs in winter and let them freeze, using a team of horses to take the hog carcasses down the Mono Road.”

After crossing into Mono Township, the Mono Road petered out, unable to make it across the deep valleys cut into this rugged stretch of the Niagara Escarpment. The Mono Road meandered to find a path into the township, eventually alighting onto Mono Township’s Seventh Line, a few hundred metres to the east of today’s Airport Road, before ending in the Hockley Valley.

Steve Brown has a passion for history, including the old road alignments that most people today wouldn’t really think about. Thanks to Steve’s maps, I find that Airport Road is a realignment of Toronto Township’s Sixth Line which, rather than curving east to meet the Toronto-Mississauga border and Dixon Road, continued east-southeast to the corner of today’s Eglinton Avenue and Renforth Drive. Much of the southern alignment of Sixth Line vanished beneath the lands acquired by Pearson Airport, but an isolated stretch remained until the early 1980s, as I learned later from former resident Glenn Kapasky.

“I grew up a few blocks from the foot of Sixth Line,” Kapasky tells me. “We used to ride our bikes there, and I recall the signs reading “Sixth Line East”. In the late seventies, it dead ended just south of the 401 and was used as an illegal dump. The road remained until about 1981, and I recall the road being closed when I was in high school.”

The southern remnants of the Sixth Line vanished by 1985 when Mississauga developed the Airport Corporate area. The only evidence that Sixth Line ever existed south of Pearson Airport is a fence gate at Eglinton Avenue where the road used to be. Satellite photographs also show a V-shaped field and a line of trees running between Eglinton Avenue and Matheson Boulevard.

Thanks to Steve’s maps, I learn more about a mysterious name that I’ve seen around the eastern side of Brampton, but know little else about. Arterial roadways with names like Goreway and Gorewood remember a time when the Sixth Line served as the boundary between Toronto Township on the west, and a triangular-shaped township known as “the Toronto Gore” on the east. The Gore gradually vanished, with Toronto Township swallowed the Gore’s lands south of Steeles Avenue in the late 1800s, and the remainder disappearing with the creation of the City of Brampton in the 1970s.

Finally, thanks to Steve Brown, I learn that, in the 1960s, the province pushed Airport Road north through Dufferin County, filling in the deepest gorges and linking Airport Road with Mono’s Sixth Line, a kilometre to the west. This minor miracle of engineering took years to complete, leaving behind a rugged drive that the province still has to warn drivers against. The road wasn’t finished to the northern boundary of Dufferin County until the early 1970s. The road south of Highway 9 had been named Airport Road since the late 1930s, and Dufferin County decided to maintain the moniker as the road pushed north.

I thank Steve Brown and leave the museum, heading north into Mulmer Township. While not featuring the rolling hills of Mono, there is a greater sense of wilderness here. The fields disappear, replaced by well-treed lots. Mulmur Township has a population density of less than 11 persons per square kilometre and a population (according to the 2001 census) of exactly 3,099. Mono Township is smaller, but has more than double the population, meaning that Mulmur Township is one of the few places in southwestern Ontario where you get any sense of isolation.

In 2006, Dufferin County celebrated its 125th anniversary. In 1881, area residents felt a new county was needed, as was too far to go to Barrie, Guelph or Owen Sound in order to conduct county business or go to court. The province of Ontario was convinced to establish the county, separating Mono and Mulmur townships from Simcoe, Melancthon Township from Grey, and today’s East Luther Grand Valley, Amaranth and East Garafraxa from Wellington. Dufferin today is one of the two smallest counties in Ontario.

But Dufferin has a distinct identity, judging by the landscape. Leaving Dufferin County, the vistas change. Upon entering Simcoe County, the rugged hills level out, and the wilderness gives way to rolling fields. There are grain silos in the distance again. I’m on my way to the community of Stayner.

Further Reading

Next: The Community of Stayner and the End of Airport Road


North of Highway 9, we leave Caledon Township, Peel Region, the Greater Toronto Area and enter Dufferin County. Here, Airport Road presented an engineering challenge. The Mono Road climbed up and down valley walls and eventually hopped over to the seventh concession line. Until the 1960s, it petered out a few kilometres north of here.


In 1966, the province of Ontario pushed Airport Road through the Hockley Valley, following the sixth concession instead of the seventh. By 1970, the road was complete to the north end of the county. It was a minor engineering miracle. Even so, the rolling nature of the road still causes accidents, as this sign warns.


Simply letting go of the brakes will propel you to speeds of upwards of 100 km/h, and there are sharp curves ahead. Solution: don’t let go of your brakes, and pay attention. This can be a challenge.


More hills. The first municipality you encounter in Dufferin County is the Town of Mono, home to rolling hills, farms, and small rural communities. A great place to see the change of seasons.


Mono gives way to the Township of Mulmur at Highway 89. Also, the land flattens out, though not by much. On my right is, of all things, a German restaurant called “Ludwig’s Outpost”.


A highlight of this trip is a visit to the Dufferin County Archives and Museum. It only costs $5 to attend, and there are a number of interesting historical displays, and a wonderful view at the top of a specially constructed silo.


Historic log cabin preserved inside the museum building. I was here to meet Archivist Steve Brown, who kindly allowed me to look at several old maps and texts to learn about the history of Airport Road (formerly the Mono Road)


Silo view, looking southwest towards the Airport Road/Highway 89 intersection.


Silo view, looking east.


Silo view, looking west.


Silo view, looking north, towards the rest of my journey.


Mulmur Township may not be as rugged as the Town of Mono, at least along Airport Road. However, the township barely has 3000 residents, and its density of 10.8 persons per square kilometre is half that of Mono to the south. There is a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy.


Towards the northern end of Dufferin County, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2006. The County was created out of five townships snatched from neighbouring Simcoe and Wellington Counties, and is thus one of the smallest counties in Ontario.

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