The City of Barrie has a rich history and an exciting future. Each and every year there are exciting tourism events and there is always something new to celebrate. In the past few years, we’ve seen a massive transformation of our waterfront, the incredible Meridian Place, commercial redevelopments and expansions, as well as infrastructure expansions that will help make transportation via train and highway even more convenient.
We can always agree that there are many benefits of living in Barrie. But – how well do you know our city?
Barrie Was Significant in the War of 1812
The Barrie area was first mentioned as a settlement in the War of 1812. It was founded as a route for British soldiers and supplies in the war with the US. The troops would travel from the town of York which is now known as Toronto. They would be staged in the settlement before traveling the 9 Mile Portage from Kempenfelt Bay to Fort Willow. This was a vital route for supplies for the British. This route had existed for centuries before the Europeans arrived in Canada. The First Nations People used Kempenfelt as a camp before traveling the trail. This beautiful route is still available for everyone to walk; you can travel from Memorial Square to Fort Willow along the Portage Trail.
Barrie has a Connection with Napoleon!?!
The town was named after Sir Robert Barrie in 1833. He was the man in charge of the naval forces that traveled to Kempenfelt Bay with supplies and troops. He was famous for capturing Napoleon’s brother in 1809. During the War of 1812, he was very active and helped destroy Chesapeake Bay Flotilla. He also helped save ten slaves from Thomas Whittington.
Barrie was the Northernmost Stop in the Underground Railroad
Barrie was the northernmost stop in the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was not a railroad for trains, but a route for slaves to escape their captors. This secret network of routes was set-up to smuggle the slaves north to Canada. It is said that the freed slaves were instrumental in the settlement called Shanty Bay, named after the houses they built there. There is some uncertainty if this is the true story, but we hope it is true!
In the late 19th Century, Barrie was Known for Ice Harvesting
By 1869 the population had grown to 3,000 and assumed the county seat for Simcoe County. One of its main industries in the winter was Ice Harvesting. As soon as the ice had frozen over on Simcoe Lake sufficiently, an army of men would go out on the frozen lake in the harshest of conditions to harvest the ice. This was a huge industry with the ice going far and wide, even as far as Florida. It was known as the purest ice in North America.
Barrie Played A Role in Both World Wars
When World War I broke out, Barrie citizens aided in the building of Borden Army Base. It was built to train soldiers and give additional support during the war effort. The base opened in 1916 and has constantly grown until it was and still is the largest Canadian Forces Base. In World War II a naval corvette was named HMCS Barrie.
A More Recent History of Barrie…
By the 1950s the population had grown to 16,600 in Barrie. This was helped by the opening of Highway 400 In 1952, when four full lanes were available. Since then it has flourished and grown. So much so that in 1959 Barrie was incorporated as a city.
From 1967 to 1999 the land known now as Park Place was once a brewery for Molson. Also in that location from 1987 to 2005, a concert venue was opened, we believe that The Monkeys were the first group to headline there. It went to stage some of the largest acts in the world, such as Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Neil Young and Oasis to name but a few.
The land also had a notorious part in Canadian history. On January 12th, 2004, the abandoned Molson Brewery was raided and authorities uncovered the largest marijuana grow operation in Canadian history. Over 30,000 plants were discovered, with a value of over $30 million.
There have also been some difficult times, such as the tornado of 1985. A force 4 tornado hit the city on May the 31st of that year. It caused substantial damage to the buildings in its path. Sadly, eight people lost their lives to this violent storm and it was one of the most deadly tornadoes in Canadian history.
The population of Barrie has grown since the 1950s, to 21,200 in the 1960s, to nearly 40,000 by 1980. Barrie has had quite a growth spurt, and by the turn of the century, reaching approximately 100,000 people. It continues to grow today, as the population is approximately 150,000 now. This makes Barrie the 34th largest city in Canada.
Barrie is a beautiful city with a great deal to offer! Most weekends there are multiple events happening. Stay tuned to Barrie Uncovered to see what’s on in your community.