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THEN & NOW: Railway YMCA

Bradford Street building opened as a YMCA on May 19, 1908 and provided accommodations to men working on the railroad in Allandale

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

Railway YMCA – 268 Bradford St. 

We’re in Allandale again this week!

When the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) took over Northern Railway and began expanding their interests and facilities in Allandale, it became apparent that railroad workers needed a place to stay when deadheading or working in the area short term. 

About the same time, 1903, the minister at Allandale Presbyterian Church, now known as Essa Road Presbyterian, was advocating for YMCA in Allandale (the organization of a YMCA was being talked about as early as 1898). His hope was to provide young men with a more wholesome alternative for recreation and accommodations from the usual bars and hotels.

Planning and fundraising began in 1905, with the GTR kicking in $4,500 toward construction and committing to $90 per month to maintain the building. Barrie’s contribution was to raise $1,500 to outfit the building and round up 150 members at $3 per person. They got this done in two weeks.

Four lots were purchased at the corner of Bradford Street and the town line (Tiffin Street) in May 1906 for $1,500. New York architect George F. Scheaeder designed the three-storey brick building facing the bay.  

On the first floor, the northeast corner was reserved for the Bank of Toronto, which would be renting office space in the new building. The rest of the main floor housed a restaurant with lunch counter, kitchen, baths showers, wash room and bathrooms.

On the second floor was a lecture room, parlour, classroom, barber shop, cloak room and a secretary’s office, which was used by the YMCA to run programs until 1942.  There was also to be a balcony overlooking the water.

Lastly, on the top floor, 15 8x6 sleeping cubicles, as well as a large bathroom and lavatory, were planned.

The YMCA officially opened on May 19, 1908 and just a year later, the programs and small library were being widely enjoyed. Railroaders appreciated the clean, pleasant accommodations, the grounds were beautified and the Allandale Railway YMCA was considered an important component of the community.

On June 20, 1910, the lawn bowling green opening just behind the YMCA, facing Essa Road.

The Allandale YMCA was a hub of activity well into the 1940s. A second ‘Y’ opened in Barrie on Owen Street in 1958.

On Dec. 31, 1939, the Canadian National Railway (CNR) ended its annual grant to the Railway YMCA – a bunkhouse just wasn’t needed any more.

The building continued on as the YMCA through the 1940s and ‘50s. In the '60s, right through to the early 1980s, the building became the Allandale Men’s Rooming House.

By 1982, the old YMCA had been reborn as the Crazy Fox, a fine-dining restaurant, followed by Shutters and currently the Farmhouse restaurant – all of which have preserved and showcased the beautiful historic features and charm of this splendid heritage structure.