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THEN AND NOW: Turreted Dunlop St. building once served as mayor's residence

Lake-facing home near Poyntz Street was the home of Donald Ross, who was Barrie's mayor in 1905 and 1906

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day, as well as the story behind them. 

168 Dunlop St. E. 

The distinctive house located at 168 Dunlop St. E. was once the home of Barrie mayor Donald Ross.

Donald Ross married Emma Harper in 1902 and they moved into their cozy Dunlop Street home when they returned from their honeymoon.

Mr. Ross practised law out of the Toronto Dominion Bank building on Owen Street, just a few blocks away. He became active in civic business, representing Ward 2 on town council in 1902 and 1903, and was chairman of the finance committee before serving as mayor in 1905 and 1906 when he was 39 years old.

Afterwards, he returned to his career as a lawyer and was considered meticulous in his approach to his work, conducting himself with integrity and was very well-respected.

Ross later became president of the Board of Trade and a member of the Board of Education.

Ross was an active and generous supporter of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and the beautiful engravings and most of the furniture in the lecture room of the church were the gift of Donald Ross.

Generally considered the best read man in Barrie, his tastes were broad, although he had a keen love of history, particularly the history of the Presbyterian Church.

Although his own time in public office was brief, he was known to help Liberal candidates in both town and riding organizations. He was often urged to become a candidate for provincial or federal parliaments himself and was a personal friend of William Lyon Mackenzie King.

The Ross family, now with three daughters  Helen, Margaret and Marion (a son was lost in infancy)  continued to reside in the couple’s first home at 168 Dunlop St. E. 

By 1920, their neighbours in the block bounded by Dunlop, Poyntz, Collier and Sampson streets included Fire Chief Shrubsole on Collier Street, Robert A. Stephens (also on Collier Street) who opened his clothier and men’s furnishings store on Dunlop Street in 1884 and at 13 Poyntz Street, Emma King, the teacher (Victoria and West Ward schools) for whom an elementary school was named, who was also the first woman to sit on the Barrie Public Library board (a position she held until she was 80 years old) and the initiator of story time at the library that preschoolers still enjoy (when the library is open).

Emma Ross, sadly, would only spend 22 years in this neighbourhood before she passed away in October 1923.

Donald Ross served almost 20 years on the board of directors of Royal Victoria Hospital, several of those years as vice-president, declining the presidency, but continuing to be active in the chairmanship of the Nurses Home Building Committee.

Ross also spent 30 years as president or honorary solicitor to the Children’s Aid Society and held a long term as secretary and curator of the County of Simcoe Law Association. He was a past master of the Corinthian Masonic Lodge and he helped organize the Barrie Curling Club and secure the rink on Clapperton Street.

In 1928, Ross was appointed senior judge of the County of Simcoe. Unfortunately, it was a role he would not hold for long. Although he appeared to be carrying out his court duties with no apparent issues, he had not been well since August 1929, plagued with a carbuncle and an infection that was spreading.

Donald Ross was taken to Toronto General Hospital on Nov. 9 and died Dec. 2, unable to fight the condition any longer.

A private funeral service was held at the Ross home at 168 Dunlop St. E. His daughters Helen, now on the Barrie Central Collegiate teaching staff, Margaret, a nurse in training at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, and Marion, a student at the University of Toronto, were there to mourn him.

A public service at St. Andrew’s Church followed, then Donald Ross was laid to rest at Barrie Union Cemetery.

In the 1930s until 1966, the next (and last) family to own 168 Dunlop were Thomas and Olive Lowe. Mr. Lowe only enjoyed the charming lake-facing house until 1949, when he passed away.

Mrs. Lowe continued to live in 168 Dunlop until she retired in 1963. Olive had been active in the Red Cross for 50 years – locally, she been in charge of sewing and knitting in the Red Cross workroom, and led the volunteers who provided food for blood donors at the clinics. She was well known within Red Cross circles provincially and her service highly commended.

In addition to her extensive work with the Red Cross, Olive was active in Trinity Anglican Church’s  Women’s Auxiliary, the RVH Auxiliary and the Victorian Order of Nurses. Although she had moved in with her daughter in Galt (present-day Cambridge) after she retired, when Olive died in 1966, her funeral was held in Barrie where she had lived for almost 40 years, before she was buried in Thornbury, near her hometown of Clarksburg.

After that, 168 Dunlop became a commercial property. From the late 1960s until the early 1970s, the Ontario Motor League occupied the old home. 

Norman Shelswell Real Estate, at one time located on Dunlop Street near the Five Points, relocated farther east into the turreted house, staying until about the mid-1980s.

The next life for the beautiful old home was that of the very elegant Dove restaurant and today, Chaopaya Thai restaurant calls 168 Dunlop St. E. home.