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Heritage homeowners are 'stewards' of local history (5 photos)

'As homes of that era were all custom built, they all represent the owner’s sense of style and design, or what they felt was important'

At this time of year, perhaps ’in with the old’ might be an appropriate phrase.

Barrie history is front and centre across the city and was recently recognized during the Heritage Awards, selected by the city’s heritage committee by vote.

“The Heritage Awards are a public recognition of residents’ and business owners’ efforts to maintain the history of Barrie,” says City of Barrie planner Tomasz Wierzba, who is also a Heritage Advisory Committee liaison under the Ontario Heritage Act.

“These folks do us a great public service, all on their own time and often at their own cost.”

The heritage awards are a great way to see and learn about unique heritage properties, he says.

“And to hear stories about the people and events that shaped what Barrie is today. The heritage awards are a celebration of our shared history and the stewards of that history,” he adds.

There were five award winners in four categories: residential (126 Letitia St. and 227 St. Vincent St.), institutional (St. Paul’s Anglican Church), individual (Mary Harris) and group (Theatre by the Bay).

“The homes in the residential category are great examples of cultural heritage preservation as they have been in continued use for over 140 years,” says Wierzba.

’The Three Oaks' at 126 Letitia, built in 1874 and of a gothic/Victorian design, was built by formerly prominent community member, Lt.-Col. Alex Mckenzie, a local businessman and militia commander.

“And 227 St. Vincent St. has very unique architectural elements, being an oculus window with original stained glass and a cathedral (arch with a point) framed main door,” Wierzba adds.

When she laid eyes on the home, Elizabeth Allen van der Wal was smitten.

A realtor by trade and no stranger to the local housing market, after moving to Barrie she went on a four-and-a-half-year search for the home of her dreams and her efforts paid off when she came across the Victorian-style beauty in the city’s east end.

“My dream was always to move into a lovely, preserved century home and it was everything I wanted,” she says of the St. Vincent Street two-and-a-half storey brick building. “It has nine-foot ceilings, huge crown molding that’s all original, the baseboards are all over a foot high. The flooring is unbelievable (and some is) a herringbone design. The rooms are gorgeous; you’ve got sliding doors between the rooms.

“It was preserved just beautifully.”

At this point she hasn’t had the opportunity to be able to research into the full history of the house.

“I don’t think it’s had too many owners,” Allen van der Wal says. “I know it was built in 1876 and supposedly there was an addition that was put on in 1890 and then another small addition put on the back in 1910.

“The outside is pretty amazing because it has some of (its original style and features) that you can’t find anywhere else, which is the old round stained-glass window and the three-quarter round stained glass window.”

Wierzba says century homes in Barrie have the original owners’ individual stamp when it comes to how they were constructed.

“We know that the homes that won the awards this year are common in Barrie and the surrounding area in that they are representative of Victorian and Gothic architecture,” he says. “As homes of that era were all custom built, they all represent the owner’s sense of style and design, or what they felt was important.”