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THEN AND NOW: George Vickers Store was – and remains – an architectural gem

Building on Barrie’s busy block has what is considered one of the best facades in the city

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archives Curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day, along with the story behind them.

The George Vickers store, 72-74 Dunlop St. E.

Many will recognize the historic building from Main Street which has housed many businesses over the decades. This is the Sanders Block, designed and built in 1880 by Barrie architect Thomas Kennedy for Leander Sanders, a jeweler.

The charming building still retains many notable features such as the metal finials on the roof and the highly decorative stonework, which includes the Sanders name embedded in the cornice. The Sanders Block is considered one of the best frontages in Barrie and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for its architectural and historical significance.

George Vickers was born in St. Leonard’s, Sussex, England, in 1870 and came to Canada with his family in 1874, settling in Barrie.

At the time when George Vickers occupied this address, the building was considered one of the most beautiful, so conspicuous on the outside with its double facade and large windows. Inside, natural light from tall windows at the front of the store, along with gas and electric lighting, only enhanced the cleverly placed displays throughout the store.

Over 40 clerks manned the various departments spread over three floors, which offered the finest imported materials for men’s clothing, millinery and upholstery. Yes, Geo. The Vickers store was quite impressive.

Brother James Vickers in the early 1900s was considered Barrie’s exclusive tailor merchant with customers from across the county. He also owned a modern, well-appointed shop on the south side of Dunlop Street and enjoyed a reputation as an expert cutter and fitter. His work, fabrics and designs have made him both highly successful and well known in the industry.

Barrie loved his royal connections.

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall stopped in Barrie for three minutes on October 10, 1901. When Edward VII died in 1910 and the Duke succeeded him, a glorious Coronation Day celebration in Barrie, presided over by Hampton Jory, was organized for June 22. , 1911. It was sold out with a mile-long parade, concerts, sporting events, and shows in the farm park attended by about 9,000 people. The day was so spectacular and such a success for the city that many clamored to make the celebration an annual event, but lack of funding in 1912 was a hindrance.

But early in 1913, it was George Vickers who convinced Mayor Alexander Cowan that it had been 60 years since Barrie had become a municipality and that such a milestone should be recognized. So, with a grant of $500, plus the guarantee of an additional $500, Barrie’s Diamond Jubilee was scheduled for June 30 to July 1, 1913.

The townspeople definitely bought into this new celebration and, in May, were invited to start decorating their homes in anticipation of the big event.

Barrie’s 60th anniversary was filled with air shows, music, motorcycle racing, a parade, military tattoos, a water carnival and more. Trains and steamboats brought thousands to Barrie – it was estimated that a crowd of around 25,000 people (Barrie had a population of around 6,400 at the time) attended the proposed celebration by George Vickers.

George Vickers announced his retirement as a merchant in 1920.

His greatest hobby, among other interests, was horticulture, with a specialty in gladioli, holding positions such as vice-president of the Canadian Gladiolus Society, past president of the Barrie Horticultural and Town Improvement Society as well as administrator of the Barrie Agricultural Society. .

In 1934, he was appointed Simcoe County Registrar of Deeds. Working to the end, he suffered a heart attack in 1938 after a day at the registry office. His funeral was held at his home at 131 Owen St., considered one of the prettiest in the city thanks to Vickers’ beautiful grounds and gardens.