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THEN & NOW: Carley's Boat Works

Carley’s Boat Works remained at the bottom of Mulcaster until the property was expropriated in 1971 to extend Simcoe Street

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

Carley’s Boat Works

Carley’s boathouse is a landmark many may remember.

John Carley’s first boat works opened in Barrie in 1867, where Sam Cancilla park is now located, before moving to the location at the foot of Mulcaster Street.

John built all kinds of small boats, using local saw mills to cut the oars for his projects. He was even contracted to build boats that were used in the 1870 efforts in the Red River area of Manitoba to stop Louis Riel’s first rebellion against the Canadian government.

When they weren’t busy building boats, John and his wife Ellen built custom cottages.

The family lived on the second floor of the boathouse (the main floor was for the boat works and rentals) until they moved into ‘town’. One of the Carley family homes stood at the corner of Mulcaster and Worsley streets.

When John Carley died in 1912, his son Cliff with wife Alice, took over the family business, and their son Ernie was the last to run the boat works.

Just a note about John’s wife Ellen: having been born in 1853, she was proclaimed Barrie’s Centennial Queen in 1953, even though she was not living in Canada by then.

Carley’s Boat Works remained at the bottom of Mulcaster Street until the property, along with Delaney boat works, was expropriated in 1971 to extend Simcoe Street to Mulcaster Street.

There was another Carley in the boat business, John’s nephew Levi. He had worked as a boat builder in Orillia with his father Joseph, then with John in Barrie. He also lived in Midland for a period of time where he opened another boat works.

In the 1880s, Levi and his wife Margaret apparently spent several summers living on a houseboat in Kempenfelt Bay, and in the winters, Levi was said to be dazzling at ice boating.

Levi’s business was building sailing yachts and repairing steamboats, as well as running a steam bath, which is shown in the 'Then' photo. The notation on the old picture describes a steam yacht, belonging to a Mr. Stevenson, docked at Levi Carley’s wharf. The date is said to be ‘about 1900’, but the photo could be even earlier as Levi was reported to have been forced into bankruptcy in 1893 by the decline in the boat market and had moved to Windsor.

Heritage Park is located where the old Carley Boat Works once stood.