This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day.
It’s been about 150 years and this old-timer still overlooks a corner of main street and a spot that has been called railroad square, Station Gore, Post Office Square, Fred Grant Square and now Memorial Square.
The building sits at the end of the Glebe Block which is on the south side of Dunlop Street between Memorial Square and Five Points. This parcel of land had been allocated as a glebe for the Anglican Church in 1836.
The property belonging to the Church of England was bounded by Bayfield, Dunlop and Marks (now Simcoe) streets and was leased out for income rather than used for church purposes.
In the early days, the structures in the Glebe Block faced the bay, not Dunlop Street. The Glebe system was dismantled in 1852 and the land passed to private ownership.
In February 1868, a fire which started on the second floor of a building in the Glebe Block, tested the Barrie fire brigade now operating out of the new fire hall designed by Henry Dougall. Things did not go well and the fire destroyed several nearby stores on the block.
Disaster struck the Glebe Block again on June 24, 1871. The wooden stores were destroyed by a fire that started in a stable behind the Northern Railway freight shed and spread to other buildings including fire chief George Plaxton’s home.
The new buildings that replaced the ones ruined by the fire, now faced Dunlop Street instead of the bay. Thanks to a bylaw introduced in 1871, any new construction in the area bounded by Bayfield, Collier, Mulcaster streets and the bay must be stone, brick or roughcast plaster over wood.
Even so, the roofs of these new stores on the Glebe Block were damaged yet again in 1875, when fire destroyed the buildings across the street.
After that devastating fire of 1871, William Macy, a contractor, built the current building at 59 Dunlop St., just next to Station Gore, for Humphrey Bennett, a tailor.
The portion of the building closest to the square was occupied by Edwards and Laird: their shop sold books, stationary and wallpaper along with pianos, organs and melodeons. This photo of 59 Dunlop St. would have been taken before 1878 when gas streetlights were installed. Notice the wooden sidewalks!
Records show that J.C McKeggie and Co. opened their private bank in this building in 1881. By the mid- to late-1890s, the building had experienced a major renovation – the gabled dormers of the third story had been removed, and on the east side of the bank, a doorway was added as well as stained glass over an enlarged window.
From about the 1930s, it seems a trend was beginning ... this corner location overlooking the square has had smoke shops and lunch counters ever since, businesses such as H.W. Payne and Company tobacconist, British Consols, Jackson’s Grill (from at least 1950 until the late '70s), The Establishment in '80s and '90s to today’s Dunlop Convenience Centre.