The Tall Trees neighbourhood in north-end Barrie is located in what was Vespra Township until 1959. That year, the small village of Cundles, with a population of some 70 people, was annexed by the newly created City of Barrie.
Surprisingly, this move came at the request of the Cundles residents themselves who were tired of the patchwork of old wells and septic systems, the lack of street lighting and good sidewalks, and who desired lower taxes and the protection of Barrie police.
Not surprisingly, much of the area around Tall Trees was land that once belonged to pioneering lumber man Thomas Cundle.
Mr. Cundle was born in 1823 in Port Hope, Ont. He married Elizabeth Smith and moved to Barrie around 1856.
This extremely successful man had entered the lumber business as a teenager and worked his way up to wealth and a comfortable living for his family by the early 1860s. In 1861, he was selling in excess of $50,000 worth of timber a year.
In 1868, Thomas Cundle purchased the 100-acre parcel of land on the west side of Bayfield Street at Cundles Road and built a wonderful 14-room brick home in the vicinity of the present-day Kozlov Centre. He had access to the best white pine in the district and could afford to buy bricks from Freek’s Brick Yard for the construction.
Around this time, Mr. Cundle began to step away from the lumber business and take an interest in farming the land around the fine new home that he had christened Clandeboye, a nod to his Irish ancestry. He dabbled in local politics as a two-time town councillor and one-time deputy reeve and, in 1885, donated the land on the southeastern corner of Bayfield Street and Cundles Road for a school.
Meanwhile, the little village of Cundles began to develop along Bayfield Street from Ferris Lane up to Cundles Road. The actual Cundle estate had at one time consisted of over 300 acres and six separate properties.
In the late 1880s, Thomas Cundle was stricken with a debilitating illness which lingered for over a year and eventually left him bed-ridden for the last months of his life. It was at this time that the 100-acre property was purchased by Robert Brown.
Mr. Brown’s father-in-law, Thomas Anderson, had heard about the sale of the prominent property in Barrie and journeyed up from Toronto to look at it. Upon his recommendation, the Browns left their farm which was located at St. Clair and Avenue Road and took over Clandeboye. The Browns also purchased 200 acres on the east side of Bayfield Street, land that stretched all the way to St. Vincent Street and encompassed the current Tall Trees community.
When Mr. Brown died in 1918, the 100-acre property went to his son, Wallace Brown, while the 200 acres of mostly bush went to another son, Arthur Brown. Part of that 200-acre piece, some 60 acres, was later purchased by the Ferris family and some of that land may have made up a portion of the eventual Tall Trees subdivision.
The family of John and Martha Ferris had purchased the 100-acre Goodfellow farm in 1906. Its borders were St. Vincent Street, Bayfield Street, Cundles Road East and, eventually, Highway 400. The street now known as Ferris Lane ran east from Bayfield Street and ended at the farm. The main barn stood approximately where the OPP Credit Union at 123 Ferris Lane sits today, with its back to where the highway is now. The farmhouse would have stood on what is presently Daphne Street.
The old Ferris house burned down in the mid-1960s and nothing of the former farm is left to see.
Thomas Cundle would recognize very little today of his time in this area. The nearly five-acre hardwood forest behind Cundles Heights Public School that makes up Tall Trees Park might be all that remains from the old gentleman’s day.