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THEN AND NOW: Statenborough still standing tall on Peel St.

Built in the 1860s, it was once the home of millionaire William H. Wright, who died there in 1951

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.

Statenborough — 55 Peel St.

With its sprawling, mixed architectural style, Statenborough, located at 55 Peel St., is another Wellington Street ridge mansion that still stands, along with its neighbours Ardtrea and Carnoevar.

It was built in the 1860s for Henry R.A. Boys, who was Simcoe County treasurer. Boys was succeeded by assistant treasurer, Sidney M. Sanford, in 1884. Sanford was not in the position very long: he died the following year. His son Sidney James Sanford bought Statenborough in 1886.

Jim Sanford enlarged the home by adding a wing to the west side of the house to accommodate a ballroom. Jim was also responsible for the building of Barrie’s Grand Opera House in 1895. He got into a bit of trouble with the financing of his initiatives and moved to South America. My colleague Mary Harris details his escapades here in part one and part two.

Statenborough was also the home of millionaire William H. Wright.

Wright was born in 1876, in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England. At 21, he joined the British Army, surviving the siege of Ladysmith during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

In 1907, he joined his sister Frances and her husband, Ed Hargreaves, in northern Ontario. Later moving to Cobalt, the two men tried prospecting, discovering gold in 1911. The claims they staked became the heart of three major mines.

Although he was almost 40 (and rich), Wright enlisted in the Canadian army in 1916 and served overseas until the end of the war, declining multiple promotions along the way. Afterwards, he returned to the north and went on to make the Wright-Hargreaves gold mine one of Canada’s debut mines, operating from 1921 to 1965.

When the Hargreaves’ lost their home in Haileybury to fire, Wright bought Statenborough for the two families to live in.

Not long after purchasing Statenborough in 1922, Wright bought the Brookdale Farm from the Dyment family. A racetrack, located on 47 acres west of Anne Street between Victoria and Brock streets, was the site of the 1873 Queen’s Plate, hosted in Barrie that year on July 1.

Nathaniel Dyment later bought the track to use for training for his Brookdale Stables, until Wright took over the farm in 1925. 

A fire in 1949 destroyed the stable where all five of Barrie’s King’s Plate winners were bred. Later, in 1953, the land where the former Dyment/Wright farm had once stood was annexed from Vespra Township to become part of Barrie.

Along with his success in mining and racing, Wright founded the Globe and Mail newspaper in 1936. He continued to support the community in which he lived through his generous donations toward the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Barrie Arena.

Urban legend goes that, despite his wealth, Wright always kept a backpack and prospecting kit on hand: should he lose everything, he was ready to go back to the bush.

William Wright passed away in 1951 at Statenborough.