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THEN AND NOW: Mary St. house was focal point of busy life

Turn-of-the-century photos offer glimpse into the lives of happy, young Barrie family, but tragedy would soon rear its ugly head

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.

83 Mary St.

W.B. Capon’s paint store in the Boys Block on Dunlop Street opened in 1872. It was founded by William Benjamin Capon and was operated along with Thomas Pearcy, another painter. The store stocked paints, brushes and other supplies, required by painters.

In 1888, a young man began clerking at W.B. Capon.

The new employee was Fred Warren. Fred grew up on a farm near Brooklin, Ont. Sadly, this only child lost his parents at a young age, and went to work in Toronto when he was 14. He stayed in the city for six years before returning to Brooklin to run a produce business, prior to relocating to Barrie.

It was not long before Fred Warren and Warren Johnston took over Mr. Capon’s business. The Johnston and Warren store was successful: it was a well-built brick building in a desirable location, with appealing and efficiently laid out departments throughout.

By all accounts, their wallpaper stock was unmatched in beauty and variety, they carried the most celebrated lines of paints, and besides stocking woods for picture framing, they had a workroom where framing was quickly and expertly done. Their business grew and customers kept returning for the quality products and the store’s exceptional service.

In 1891, Fred Napier Warren married Wilhelmina G. Allward of Toronto. The couple, their son, Charles Edwin and daughter Frankie, would live in a lovely home on Mary Street.

The house was quite charming inside and out. The stone cladding with the contrasting quoins gave the building a distinguished appearance, while the elaborate and unusual barge board in the gable added a fanciful effect. Inside, the home was furnished in the style of the day.

About 1902, there appeared to be some construction in progress to add a second floor to the addition at the back of the house. A barn completed the outbuildings on the property.   

The Warren family had a busy life in the community. They attended Collier Street Methodist Church, where Mrs. Warren was active in church work and the Ladies’ Aid. Fred was a past master of the Corinthian Lodge and also belonged to Sons of England, Woodmen, Maccabees, Independent Foresters and Chosen Friends.

On top of his social interests, Fred Warren found time to serve one year on town council, sit on the Board of Trade executive and spend 15 years as secretary of the Barrie Fire Brigade — and was said to be one of the best firemen as well.

Around town, Fred was thought to be kind, a generous and sympathetic friend to the poor and distressed, and was never known to have wronged anyone.

These turn-of-the-century photos offer a truly delightful glimpse into the lives of a happy, young family. Take a look: Frankie posing with her doll, Charles in a game of hide-and-seekpicnics and camping at Little Lakefamily dinners and kids making the most of an enormous snowfall.

Even the family ‘transportation’, Daisy, was featured often in the family album, driving her master, experiencing her first snow fall and just having a joyful roll on the ground in the back yard! Cheerful images of good times with friends, neighbours and family that should bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Heartbreakingly, just a year or so after these sweet moments were captured, Fred became quite sick, and never completely recovered from his five week illness.

After spending several months in Calgary in 1906 for treatment, with only a fleeting improvement in his health, Fred returned home, resigned, but uncomplaining, to his condition. He would pass away from tuberculosis at his Mary Street home at the too-young age of 39.

More than 150 Masonic brothers, the largest group ever seen in Barrie for such an occasion, attended the funeral service at the Warren house. Afterwards, dear friends including J. ShrubsoleW.J. Sutherland and partner Warren Johnson, carried Fred Warren out of his Mary Street home for the last time.

The town bell tolled as the procession left the house and made its way to Barrie Union Cemetery.  

Doubly sad, just seven years later, after a short visit downtown to shop on a Saturday night, Wilhelmina passed away suddenly while sitting on her verandah, just a few minutes after returning home.

Not surprising, was the outpouring of grief and loss for this devoted homemaker, friend, mother and likeable Mary Street resident.

While Fred and Wilhelmina were married for only 17 years, their photo album hints at short lives well lived.