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Remember This? Uncovering The Market's fascinating previous life

Mary goes exploring, and finds something interesting in the hidden spaces at 41 Dunlop

Dennis, has the coolest job! My friend is a businessman from way back, from down Ancaster way, and he knows a good thing when he sees it. Someone else had started to partition off parts of the interior of 41 Dunlop St. W. but never finished. A light bulb went on in Dennis’ mind and he ran with the idea.

With rumours of the Barrie Farmers’ Market relocating to the bus terminal, Dennis saw an opportunity to turn the partially renovated old building into an indoor mall of sorts, and possibly attract visitors to the Farmers’ Market to his venue just around the corner.

Simply christened The Market, this shopping centre is a collection of ‘garage boutiques’ that includes an eclectic array of vendors. Locally beloved artist, Deb Grise, is here, as is painter and framer, Al Dorion. You will find the Huntingford, purveyor of all things vintage and retro, a barbershop, Syndicate TV and two new coming tenants will make the Market officially full. 

You will not believe me when I tell you about the previous life of this structure! I had a hard time imagining it myself. This building was once the home of a very glamorous movie theatre, the Capitol, but you need to look very carefully to picture it.

Standing just inside the front door, look straight ahead at the steps up to the centre hallway of the Market. Why are they there? Those steps mark the beginning of the slope of the theatre floor as it descended downward towards the south wall where the stage and movie screen were located. 

Look up. Amazingly, the original tinwork ceiling still remains in its entirety. 

To see more, you would have to be as fortunate as I was and have tour of the hidden spaces of the old theatre. Dennis took my photographer son and I past the folding metal screen that marks the end of the public area. From here, you can see the 2 exit doors that once flanked the stage. 

Down some wooden stairs, we found ourselves standing just about where the stage and screen would have been but it was completely unrecognizable as such. The only thing that gave me my bearings was the last of the old cast iron radiators that once heated the theatre. It can be seen in the interior photograph of the Capitol Theatre, along the left wall. 

Were the walls once painted fuchsia and cream? No one can tell from the circa 1935 black and white photo, but by looking at the radiator and surrounding walls today, I would have to say yes.

Back upstairs we went because, to see the actual basement area, you need to go down a different set of stairs located near the front of the building. Down here, we saw some sturdy Victorian era stone walls, as true today as they were 150 years ago, the massive wooden supports and beams that a theatre would need, and the site of the old boiler.   

Dennis opened a metal door and told us to shine a light inside. This was a crawlspace like no other. It was the space between the angled theatre floor and the cellar floor, a wedge of emptiness going back some ninety feet.

Back above ground, Dennis gave us a little peek at his neat and tiny apartment above the front entrance, that has a perfect bird’s eye view of the neighbourhood, including another old theatre, The Roxy, right across the street. In what has to be one of the more unique places to live in Barrie, Dennis calls the former projectionist’s booth home. 

What a beauty she must have been! Opened in September of 1923, after a 10-week construction period, the Capitol Theatre could seat nearly 600 patrons in 38 rows. The length of the cinema was 115 feet and the ceiling was 22 feet high. It boasted specially-designed chandeliers and wall mounted lights, steam heat, huge electric fans and vents for cooling, orchestra pit and stage with dressing rooms below, 3 projectors and modern spot-lights. 

Take a wander inside some time. Grab a coffee at the front window, check out the funky booths and spend few minutes contemplating that unbelievable tin ceiling. 

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.