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THEN & NOW: Essa Road and Tiffin Street

Grand Trunk Railway appointed an expert watchmaker to inspect watches of its employees and Wesley Webb was given this position in 1898

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

8 Essa Road 

Mr. Webb was a well-known jeweller in the Barrie/Allandale area for many, many years.

Wesley Webb finished his course at the Ontario Horological Institute in 1891 and opened his first jewelry store in Bothwell Corners at Essa Road and the town line (Tiffin Street) that same year.

Named for the Township of Essa, Essa Road in the mid-1800s was not much more than a trail that ran from Allandale to Innisfil, but by the time Wesley Webb arrived, it was becoming a busy village centre.

After only two years and needing bigger premises for his business, Wesley Webb moved across the street to 8 Essa Rd

Big things were happening in Allandale. In the late-1880s, when the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) made Allandale its flagship station, jobs and businesses began to boom.

In each of its railway divisions, the GTR would appoint an expert watchmaker to inspect the watches of its employees and Wesley Webb was given this position in 1898. (As a railroad man, my dad routinely had Mr. Webb check his pocket watch.)

On Nov. 8, 1899, Wesley B. Webb married Miss Mary Robinson in Craigvale, which is located near Stroud, and by about 1903, needed to expand again – this time adding a family residence to the rear of his store.

In the same year, the GTR built a 54-foot water tank, needed to supply the steam locomotives, behind the Webb building.

Wesley Webb was doing well. Besides jewelry and silverware, he was reported to be an impressive watch specialist, carrying the largest selection of watches north of Toronto.

This photo taken about 1910 in front of the jewelry store is presumable Wesley Webb, possibly with his son, Harold, who was blind.

Harold, a piano tuner, also operated out of 8 Essa Rd. He tuned pianos for generations of local families (including ours … yours too?) for many years.

Wesley Webb was an avid outdoorsman and his yacht, the ‘Norma’, was reputed to be the undefeated champ on Lake Simcoe for sailboat racing.

A successful jeweller for 60 years, Wesley Webb passed away at 80 years of age in 1950 while sawing wood at his home at 8 Essa Rd.