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THEN AND NOW: China Hall

'Our dinner sets are marvels – not only because the patterns are admiringly painted and perfectly burnt in, but also on account of their very low prices'

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day.

China Hall

Food Tastes Better… to all persons of refinement when it is served daintily. Our dinner sets are marvels – not only because the patterns are admiringly painted and perfectly burnt in, but also on account of their very low prices.

S.W. Davis, Importer

- Advertisement in the Barrie Examiner 1897 

S.W. Davis was the owner of a crockery store located at 24 Dunlop St. E. – China Hall. He specialized in offering his customers a large selection of crockery, glassware and fine china. His inventory was thought to be magnificently displayed in his well-known store. 

Careful Handling… Of tableware is the exception rather than the rule. If you would have your china closet always look well, buy your china from us. We cannot insure against breakage, but we will guarantee to give you the best that can be had at any price. The best does not break as easily as the other kind.

S.W. Davis

- Advertisement in the Northern Advance 1897 

China Hall, along with several other downtown businesses, were recognized in a full-page feature in the Northern Advance in 1897. The piece starred an Uncle Josh who made his newly engaged Eastern Canada niece, Polly, and her fiancé a generous offer. If they were to relocate to Barrie, he would start them up in life, as a wedding gift.

It’s no surprise they accepted and when they arrive in Barrie, the article becomes a whirlwind account of Uncle Josh’s installing them in a downtown hotel, using various local services and showcasing a shopping spree in Barrie stores.

"Women like, Polly was discussing the matter of how she would arrange her new house and was interrupted by Uncle Josh.

“And these house fixins remind me,” he said, “that you haven’t got your dishes yet. The most famous stock in extent, quality and completeness is at S. Davis’ China Hall. But the average reader need not be told what an array of table ware Polly had to select from. There isn’t, positively a thing in the line of china, crockery, glass or porcelain needed for use or ornament in any part of the house that can not be found at Davis’ China Hall, in indefinite variety and at wonderfully low prices. They also have a splendid stock of lamps of every description. Polly’s order of a dinner set, two bedroom sets and much decorated ware suggested her thorough appreciation.’

We’re not sure if there really was an Uncle Josh or if this is just entertaining marketing sponsored by the participating merchants, but China Hall seemed to be store of choice for dishes at the time!

Our Christmas Goods. Are the talk of the town and so they ought to be, for Barrie has never before seen an assortment of Chinaware, Glassware, Lamps, etc. equal to our present stock, and more goods are arriving daily.

Drop in and see.

S.W. Davis

- Advertisement in the Northern Advance, December 1897 

China Hall was located in the Ontario Buildings, built in 1876 after fire (one of many downtown fires) had destroyed the area on the north side of Dunlop Street between Clapperton and Owen streets and up toward Collier Street.

The Ontario Buildings block has been home to many stores and businesses over the years. For a long time, it’s elaborate two-toned brickwork was covered by siding.

These days, the wonderful original brick façade of the upper floor is exposed and this historic building can be truly be appreciated.