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REMEMBER THIS: Books, suits, food, cash, and smokes

This downtown Barrie corner has been many things over the decades, including a book and stationary shop, a tailor business, a grocer, two successive private banks, and a series of tobacconists

This corner has been many things. A book and stationary shop, a tailor business, a grocer, two successive private banks, and a series of tobacconists.

Yet ask any longtime Barrie resident about this particular spot and they will almost invariably say the same thing.

“Oh, I loved Jackson’s Grill!”

Funny thing about Jackson’s Grill, for all but three years of its 37-year existence, there were no Jacksons running the business. Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

What was commonly known as the Glebe Block runs from the western edge of present-day Meridian Place to Five Points. The old glebe system, meant for the reservation of land for Anglican Church purposes, was done away with about 1852 just in time for an Irish-born tailor to nab this prime spot to build a shop.

Humphrey Bennett had been running a successful business on the corner when, on June 24, 1871, he met Barrie’s most unwelcome but frequent visitor – fire. The entire block was reduced to ashes, but, as we know, the story doesn’t end there. Bennett had William Macey build a very fine new brick building on the site.

Mr. Bennett had constructed his original store before the railway reached Barrie and before a bustling railway station appeared just east of his front door. Suddenly, his well-chosen corner venue become rather prominent in the business section of Barrie.

Fire tried its luck again with Mr. Bennett in 1875, but was only partially successful. While the block on the north side of Dunlop Street was destroyed this time, the four-year-old brick Glebe Block on the south side escaped complete destruction.

While Bennett’s shop occupied the western half of his building, the Edwards and Laird Books, Stationery and Wallpaper shop took up the other portion. Grocer T. Duff Co. also spent some time in the corner shop.

Humphrey Bennett retired in 1879. In 1881, John McKeggie set up his private banking business here. Ill health forced McKeggie to retire in 1900 and turn his business over to his associate, Thomas Beecroft.

The T.C. Beecroft & Co. firm operated until 1930 when Mr. Beecroft died, thus ending some 50 years of banking business on the spot.

The next phase in the life of the little corner was tobacco-based and that hasn’t entirely changed 90 years later. Soon after the demise of Mr. Beecroft, Harry Weber Payne opened his smokers’ supply shop. In time, he added magazines, playing cards, ice cream, cold drinks, and novelties to his inventory.

The Payne tobacco shop was purchased by Neola Jackson in 1940. Mrs. Jackson was born Mary Neola Paddison in Barrie in 1903 to Wellington and Lucinda Paddison.

Neola Paddison trained to be a registered nurse and was employed at Hawthornden State Hospital, an asylum in Ohio, when she married her Canadian-born husband, Clayton Jackson, in 1929.

After Clayton died in 1937, Neola returned to Barrie. In 1940, Mrs. Jackson purchased the “soda bar grill and news stand’ business of H.W. Payne and so began the golden era of this much beloved neighbourhood coffee shop.

Three years later, Neola Jackson married Frank Taylor. Neola Jackson’s business venture had met with success and quickly earned a reputation as a great place to grab a bite of lunch and have a chat. Jackson’s Grill proclaimed they had “the best cup of coffee in town.”

Perhaps there was no need to alter the name to Taylor. Jackson’s was doing just fine.

Jackson’s was known also as one of the best ticket agents in town. There, you could buy tickets for the circus, local theatrical productions or sporting events. Frank Taylor was known to drive to Maple Leaf Gardens to personally pick up choice tickets for his loyal customers if a must-see match was scheduled.

The days of grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream floats and comic books came to an end in June 1977. The building was sold and the Taylors had no choice but to close.

That last day was a parade of customers, past and present, all bearing the best of wishes for departing shop keepers.

One customer shared with the Barrie Examiner that he felt that Jackson’s Grill had some kind of magic about it.

“You can’t artificially create it. It’s something that has to grow.”

Grow it did and the feelings of nostalgia for Jackson’s Grill remain strong today.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.

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Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
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