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THEN & NOW: Robinson-Burton House

The home at 105 Toronto St., near Queen's Park in downtown Barrie, was designated a heritage property in 2005

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

105 Toronto St. – The Robinson-Burton House

Probably the most graceful home overlooking Queen’s Park would be the Robinson-Burton house at 105 Toronto St.

The house was built in 1872 for Charles W. Robinson, who owned a factory on Elizabeth Street (now Dunlop Street West), which made parts for barrels that would be used to export molasses and sugar.

It is Second Empire style and the work of architect George Brown and builder George Ball.

Robinson lost everything in 1876.   

The Burton family had many interests in Barrie. Martin Burton, his brothers George and James, along with Dr. Llewellyn the county coroner, launched the steamboat Ida Burton in 1866 (George Burton drowned in 1869 and the doctor married his widow in 1872).

An advertisement in the Simcoe County Gazetteer in 1866 promoted daily runs between Barrie, Orillia and the Severn on the steamer Ida Burton during the navigation season.

The surviving brothers, Martin and James, went into the lumber business (their father John was also a lumberman) when the Northern Railway was extending from Barrie to Orillia. They recognized opportunities in the timber industry that this new rail access could provide.

In addition to lumber, the Burtons had a stake in other ventures such as the Barrie Electric Light Company and the Barrie Gas Company.

Martin Burton bought the home at 105 Toronto St., in 1887, where he lived with his wife Emma, the daughter of Archibald Thomson, the lumber merchant who originally owned the lands that became Queen’s Park and the site of the Royal Victoria Hospital at 76 Ross St.

Their daughter, Olive, married into a lumber family as well. Her husband Nathaniel was the grandson of Nathaniel Dyment, who had settled in Barrie in 1870 and opened a grist and saw mill on Elizabeth Street. The Dyments also had very gracious homes on nearby High Street.

Although the fountain and gardens are gone, along with the cast-iron cresting and patterned slate shingles, the elegant Robinson-Burton home still retains many of its original architectural details and beauty.

The regal 105 Toronto St. was designated as a heritage property in 2005 under the Ontario Heritage Act.