This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day, as well as the story behind them.
91 Owen St.
When first built in 1884, this large house on its one-third of an acre lot was considered unpretentious. The home belonged to Capt. Oliver Lyon, his wife Sophia Stephenson and their three sons, Peter, Samuel and Oliver.
Lyon was born into a family of sailors in Toronto's Hoggs Hollow in 1844. His father and uncles on his mother’s side had been lake captains and a half-brother would become commodore of the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) fleet.
As a child, Lyon and his family moved to Oakville, an area that was home to many in the sailing profession.
Before coming to Barrie in 1874, Lyon sailed the Great Lakes, making the trip from Buffalo to Chicago in old-style sailing vessels. The only steamships were the tugs on the Detroit and St. Clair rivers.
Once in Barrie, Lyon operated Beecher and Sullivan’s tug, towing logs from Lake Couchiching to the mills at Belle Ewart. Lyon worked on Lake Simcoe for five years.
His sailing life now behind him, Lyon began a new career as secretary to Sheriff T.D. McConkey. McConkey’s sprawling estate, Ardtrea, was not far from the Lyon home. When McConkey died in 1890, the executors of his estate formed the Simcoe Loan and Savings Company, appointing Capt. Lyon as the manager, a position he held for 19 years.
The captain had other various jobs: Manager of the Barrie Gas Company, liquor licence inspector for Centre Simcoe and he operated the Barrie Wickerwork Manufacturing Company, which was located at the rear of his property.
Lyon’s high-class English wicker furniture — chairs, tables, couches, ottomans — and other items such as baskets, enjoyed a good reputation nationally and was available at McLean’s Store at the corner of Collier and Owen streets … not far from the factory.
The Lyon family attended nearby Collier Street Methodist (now United) Church and if Oliver wasn’t busy with church or one of his many endeavours, he enjoyed boating, hunting, fishing, and outdoor life in general.
When Oliver Lyon’s long life ended at age 85, the funeral was held at his Owen Street home.
The handsome house remained in the Lyon family estate until 1966.