The hotels of old Barrie were numerous, well patronized, revolving doors of innkeepers, and the subjects of frequent name changes.
Some of the now forgotten names include London House, the Ocean, the Exchange, Woodbine Saloon, Arnall House, Terrapin Hotel, and the European as well my two personal favourites, tied for first place, Hunt’s Porcupine Saloon and the Cricketer’s Saloon.
Harry Hunt took over Bail’s Saloon, located on the north side of Dunlop Street East, several doors east of Five Points, in 1872. More of a fancy goods store than a watering hole, Bail had advertised an inventory that was designed to appeal to the more moneyed citizens of Barrie – lobsters, steaks and chops, confectionery, biscuits and cigars.
Frederick Bail went into the dairy business as Harry Hunt rebranded and called his new venue Hunt’s Porcupine Saloon. There, he offered a selection of liquors and cigars, hot soups, and oysters, which were all the rage in upscale dining establishments of the time, served “stewed, fried or raw.”
As was often the case in the local hotel scene, the Porcupine Saloon had a short life in Barrie. By mid-1874, it had closed and Angus Graham, a neighbouring fruit and confection vendor, had taken over the site. Harry Hunt had moved on to a novel business which offered fully catered picnic excursions across the bay.
Nearby, facing the western edge of modern-day Meridian Place, stood a hotel that existed decades before the now vacant Bank of Montreal building was built. This hotel, which opened around 1849, was a large wood and roughcast structure with an excellent waterfront vista which could be enjoyed from its extensive wrap around verandas.
It was known as Brewer’s Hotel before 1853, the name reflecting the owner, James Brewer, as opposed to the beer making trade. Later, it became the International Hotel. W.F. Smith took over the lease until the building was bought by Edwin Sydney ‘E.S. Meeking in 1858. It was Meeking who created the fun name of Cricketer’s Saloon, sometimes known as the Cricketer’s Restaurant and Boarding House.
E.S. Meeking had a fairly long tenure, by historic Barrie hotel standards, and carried on a good business in this location for almost a decade. Of course, he was fortunate enough to be there when the railway finally reached Barrie and a train station was built within steps of his hotel.
After selling out to well-known local hotel keeper, Daniel Faragher, E.S. Meeking moved to Allandale. By 1877, he was operating a refreshment room at the train station there.
Perhaps Mr. Meeking’s timing was fortuitous once again. A few short years after leaving this spot, the inn known by then as Faragher’s Hotel met with old Barrie’s constant foe – the flames of a destructive fire.
The old wooden structure was the last building to fall in the blaze of June 1871 that destroyed the entire Glebe Block from Five Points east to the railway station park. The building was valued at $4,500, but only insured for $1,500.
The spot remained vacant for twenty years until businessman and newspaper publisher Nathaniel King built his music hall there in 1891. Originally a three-storey structure, the top floor was famously lost in a fire set by insurance fraudsters in 1909.
The last occupant of the music hall was the Bank of Montreal. Still boasting some of the best unobstructed views of Kempenfelt Bay, the building awaits the next exciting phase of Barrie business life.