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THEN AND NOW: Judge Wismer didn't have far to go home

Judge Edward Augustus Wismer's home at 74 Mulcaster was a quick and convenient commute to the Barrie courthouse across the street

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.

74 Mulcaster St.

Near the area referred to as Courthouse Hill in Barrie stands a gracious home once occupied by Judge Edward Augustus Wismer and his family.

Born in Stouffville in 1861, Edward Wismer was educated in Kitchener and studied law with John King, father of Canada’s 10th prime minister, W.L. Mackenzie King.

Edward married Nellie Cecilia Beatty and the couple had two daughters, Florence and Jean, while they lived in the town of Essex. Edward practised law in the southwestern community for about 20 years before the Wismer's relocated to Barrie in 1908.

The family quickly established themselves in the town of Barrie, becoming active in nearby St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. While Edward was deeply faithful, an elder in the church and a strong supporter of the Sunday School, it was his wife Nellie who was fully committed to serving her congregation’s interests.

Besides teaching Sunday School, Nellie reorganized the Women’s Missionary Society, and as president, managed the business of the organization with great capability and endless energy.

During the First World War, Nellie represented St. Andrew’s Church on the Red Cross executive, in addition to helping found the Barrie Women’s Canadian Club and other patriot activities during the war years.

Nellie was generally recognized as a woman who could get things done, and done well. The local papers were full of mentions of Nellie’s attendance at various conferences and events on behalf of many important causes. Mrs. Wismer had countless friends and was considered a warm and welcoming hostess whenever she entertained.

Not long after the Wismers' arrival in Barrie, Edward was appointed to the bench as a County Court judge, presiding for more than 30 years until his retirement in 1941. His home at 74 Mulcaster was a quick and convenient commute to the courthouse across the street.

No stranger to the media, Judge Wismer’s cases and decisions were often in the news. With a reputation for honesty and fairness, Wismer administered the law firmly but kindly, with a negligible amount of decisions ever overturned.

Throughout his career, Judger Wismer was highly respected for his compassion, integrity and legal acumen. Many young offenders benefited from Judge Wismer’s wisdom and leniency, bundled with encouragement to learn from the lesson and make positive changes in their lives.

The Wismers lived on Mulcaster Street for several years. Judge Wismer’s mother, Matilde, moved in with the family in the fall of 1914, but sadly died in January of the following year.

By 1921, only daughter Jean was still at home with Edward and Nellie. A domestic 15-year-old Ivy Drake, born in England and living in Canada since 1914, completed the household. Ivy’s family resided on Cumberland Street  in Allandale.

About 1927, the Wismers left Mulcaster Street and moved to the mansion, Foxley, at 16 Blake St. It was at Foxley that His Honour Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, W.D. Ross, dined as the Wismers' guest the evening before Ross opened the ninth annual show of the Dominion Gladiolus Society at the Barrie Armoury.

Once retired, the judge had more time to tend his beautiful gardens and for golf. The Wismers lived the remainder of their lives at the Blake Street home.

Mrs. Wismer passed away in 1934 and Judge Wismer in 1950. Upon his death, at the opening of the Supreme Court sittings, Judge Wismer received a tribute from the bar: “He was even more distinguished in the minds and hearts of the members of the bar for his courtesy and kindliness to us all, and for his helpfulness to the younger members in particular. He tempered justice with mercy and many an adverse decision with a kindly wit entirely without sting. He was sadly missed when he retired from the bench.”

The Foxley estate was sold to former mayor Peter Sinclair.

The lovely Victorian home at 74 Mulcaster is so symmetrical it could be mistaken for a semi-detached house at first glance. Although the house has lost its double leaf doors in the past few years, and its woodwork in the gables, the handsome house has not lost its charm.

The contrasting black brick bands, brick accents in the voussoirs, the chevron design over upper windows and brick inserts below the bay windows help make this a fine-looking home.