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Remember This: Theatre Block Part 4 (4 photos)

This stretch of Elizabeth Street, now known as Dunlop Street West, was no stranger to action

The local outlet of the Singer Sewing Machine Co. had a very nice spot in the early 1900s. They proudly advertised that their shop could be found under the large red letter 'S' in the modern Music Hall Block, adjacent to the railway station.

Facing present-day Meridian Place, in the former BMO building, they would have been one of the first businesses noticed by visitors arriving by train.

That all changed in 1909 when the infamous Guthrie family arrived in town and set up an insurance scam that saw the burning of a house on Thompson Street, as well as the Music Hall, all on the same day. The arson charges that followed led to a standing-room-only trial at the Barrie Court House.

The Singer shop, and several other businesses, were homeless for a while.

Under the management of W.J. Atkinson, the Singer Sewing Machine store soon relocated to a site on Elizabeth Street, now known as 45 Dunlop St. W.

In 1910, Mr. Atkinson passed away and George B. McLean took over the shop.

Three years later, Robert J. Finley, of Parry Sound, who had been a Singer representative there since the 1890s, arrived in Barrie to run the store.

For a short time, in the autumn of 1914, the interest of local residents was drawn to this address for a reason other than household appliances.

A young couple, new in Barrie, was renting a room above the Singer shop when the police arrived and arrested the male tenant on charges of bigamy.

Hugh Rennie had recently arrived from Bracebridge with his bride, Ethel, and had obtained work as a dress goods salesman in a Barrie shop.

Unknown to Ethel, her new husband had left a wife of ten years in southern Ontario while he sought employment in the Muskoka area.

Too bad for Rennie as the previous wife heard rumours and took a train to Bracebridge to lodge the complaint that produced the dramatic arrest in Barrie. A Bracebridge court gave him one year in prison.

By 1922, Mr. Finley was well established in the Town of Barrie. He owned his business premises and had been elected as an alderman.

That year, 45 Elizabeth St. got a makeover. Mr. Finley modernized the entire building and divided both the first-floor shop and the second-floor flat into two units. He retained one flat for his living quarters and kept one store for his sewing machine and small appliance business.

The second shop, now addressed as 45A Elizabeth St., was rented to a Mr. O.W. Reid, an undertaker and furniture builder, who would be living in the apartment above.

Beginning in 1930 with the Moderne Beauty Shop, 45A Elizabeth St. was for many decades the site of some form of barber shop and ladies’ hair salon.

Grace Goring’s Moderne Beauty Shop offered the women of Barrie all the bobs, permanent waves and coifs made popular by the Hollywood movies shown in the nearby theatres.

In the 1950s, the Harry Palmer Barber Shop and Palmer Beauty Salon occupied the space. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Wick’s barbering and beauty establishment was found here.

From March 1, 1976, this place was the original site of the long-standing Hay’s Travel business. Many a Barrie resident booked a Florida getaway with the Hay’s folks when the snow banks in town grew just a little too tall!

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.


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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