At its inception, Barrie was a small group of houses and warehouses at the foot of the Nine Mile Portage from Kempenfelt Bay to Fort Willow. The city was named in 1833 after Sir Robert Barrie, who was in charge of the naval forces in Canada and frequently had to portage from Lake Simcoe to Georgian Bay through the city. The Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century allowed many American slaves to enter Barrie. This contributed to the development (and name) of nearby Shanty Bay. During World War II the Royal Canadian Navy named a Flower class corvette HMCS Barrie.
On September 7, 1977, a private aircraft dropped altitude to 500 feet (150 m) in dense fog, struck the 1,000-foot (300 m) CKVR-TV tower, killing all five on the plane and destroying the tower and antenna. The station’s 225-foot (69 m) auxiliary tower was also destroyed and there was some damage to the main studio. CKVR were as back on the air using a temporary 400′ tower and reduced power of 40,000 watts at 8:55am on the 19th of September. The new 1,000-foot (300 m) tower was rebuilt in 1978
On 31 May 1985, an F4 tornado struck Barrie. It was one of the most violent and deadliest tornadoes in Canadian history.
In June 1987, a sculpture called Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird was moved to Barrie from Vancouver, British Columbia, where it had been exhibited as part of Expo ’86. The sculpture was erected permanently at the foot of Maple Avenue on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay. However, with the re-development along the waterfront/Lakeshore Drive, the city is considering moving the Spirit Catcher to the gravel outcropping at the foot of Bayfield Street.
In January 2004, Barrie made international news when its city police raided the former Molson brewery, and found Canada’s largest illegal cannabis grow operation.
Barrie’s Park Place (formerly Molson Park) was chosen to host Live 8 Canada on 2 July 2005. The success of the concert contributed to the resistance to a plan to convert the concert area to a commercial district. However, the stage, buildings and many of the trees on site have been destroyed since construction of the Park Place commercial district has begun.
An explosion in the Royal Thai restaurant, housed in the landmark Wellington Hotel, at the historic Five Points intersection in Barrie’s downtown core occurred at 11:20 PM on 6 December 2007. The fire quickly spread to several neighboring buildings. Firefighters battled the blaze well into the following morning, requiring assistance from other Simcoe County fire services. Officials estimate the damages to be in the millions. The Wellington Hotel building collapsed. It was over one hundred years old. On 17 February 2008, two people were charged in connection with the fire, after the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office concluded the explosion and fire were the result of arson.
Barrie is located in the central portion of Southern Ontario, within the Greater Golden Horseshoe urban agglomeration. It is accessible via Highways 26, 400, 11 and has convenient access to Highway 401, the Highway 407 Express Toll Route and to neighboring Toronto. Pearson International Airport in Toronto is less than a one hour drive from Barrie via Highway 400, a six lane highway that runs directly through Barrie.
Barrie’s historic downtown area is situated in a distinct curved or wrapped valley, surrounding the western edge of Kempenfelt Bay. Terrain is generally flat near the city’s centre. Moving up the valley slopes toward the city’s north and south ends, the terrain can be rather steep in some areas.
The city does not have any major rivers within its limits, but does have numerous creeks and streams, most of which empty into Kempenfelt Bay.
Growth and Population Expansion
The City of Barrie is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities and the Barrie Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) is the fastest growing CMA in the country. Between 2001 and 2006, Barrie and the surrounding area had 177,061 residents, which included the City of Barrie’s 128,430 residents. Current 2011 population estimates are around 145,000 for the City proper. This population expansion is largely due to the young population profile and a growing number of Canadians moving into the city for economic and technological opportunities, and the fact that Barrie has been designated an Urban Growth Centre by the Province of Ontario (Places to Grow Simcoe Area, 2009).
Due to Barrie’s extensive population growth, the city has expanded its urban area beyond the confines of the valley, particularly to the south and south-east, into the rural town of Innisfil, Ontario. To account for this growth, the Province of Ontario enacted legislation that enabled Barrie to annex 2,293 acres (9.28 km2) from the neighbouring Town of Innisfil on January 1, 2010. The land in question extends south beyond 10th Line west of the 10th Side road, and as far south as Lockhart Road on the east side of the 10th Side road. This annexation will allow Barrie to meet it’s growing population demands.
Barrie has a humid continental climate , with warm, humid summers and cold winters.
In late spring and summer months, the Barrie area is known for heavy thunderstorm activity and the occasional funnel cloud or tornado sighting, due to its location within a convergence of breezes originating from Georgian Bay, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
In the winter months, the proximity to the Great Lakes moderates winter temperatures but also results in significant snowfall in the general area. Barrie is located along the southern edge of Ontario’s snowbelt region, where lake-effect snow, primarily from Georgian Bay, falls throughout the winter. An average of 238 centimetres (95 inches) of snow falls annually, with at least 50% due to the lake effect. Since the snowfall gradient is tight, snowfall totals tend to be significantly higher just north of the city.
The following are some of the city’s major employers:
- Royal Victoria Hospital
- Georgian College and the associataed University Partnership Centre and Centre for Health and Wellness
- City of Barrie
- Simcoe County
- Simcoe County District School Board
- TD Bank and TD Waterhouse Regional Centre
- Scotia Bank Regional Centre
- BMO Data Centre
- The Source Distribution Centre
- Coca-Cola Bottling Company
- Hydro One Ontario Grid Control Centre
- TransComm Marketing
- Prodomax Automation Inc.
- CSR Cosmetic Solutions Inc.
- CanPlas Industries Inc.
Notwithstanding these major employers, Barrie has increasingly been perceived as a bedroom community for those commuting to Toronto, which is approximately 90 km south of Barrie. Approximately 32% of the resident-employed labour force (17,040 persons/53,400 persons) commute out of Barrie for employment purposes, however, approximitly 28% of the resident-employed labour force (14,880 persons/53,400 persons) commute into Barrie for employment for a net out-commuting figure of only 4.26% (17,040 persons €“14,880 persons)/(50,665 persons employed in Barrie)). Source: 2001 Census and City of Barrie Economic Development.
Tourism plays an important role in the local economy. Barrie’s historic downtown and waterfront are at the heart of its tourism industry. Downtown Barrie hosts many older buildings that have been kept up over the years or given new facades that exemplify their historical importance. Many specialty shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants are located throughout downtown Barrie, most notably along Dunlop Street East. Downtown Barrie is becoming well known for its fashion boutiques, local art, live theatre, indie-music and nightlife scenes.
In addition, downtown Barrie is home to numerous annual festivals and events such as Barrielicious, Winterfest, Celebrate Barrie, Ecofest, Jazz & Blues Festival, Promenade Days, Ribfest and Craft Beer Show, Caribfest, Lawnchair Luminata, The New Music Festival, Barrie Film Festival, Santa Claus Parade and the New Year €™s Countdown.
In the summer months, the city boasts several beaches including Minet’s Point Beach, Johnsons Beach, The Gables, Tyndale Beach, and Centennial Beach. Boating in also very popular in Kempenfelt Bay and Lake Simcoe as it connects to the Trent Severn Waterway. In 2011, Barrie’s waterfront was under redevelopment, with the relocation of several roadways to provide more greenspace and parkland along the lakeshore.
There are numerous winter recreation activities and facilities in the surrounding area, including skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding resorts, snowmobile trails and ice fishing. Recreational activities include skiing at nearby Horseshoe Resort, Snow Valley, Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Blue Mountain.
Barrie has some of the worst roads in Southern Ont. Access is very restricted to major shopping areas with the 400 highway being utilized by most Barrie residents rather than traverse the poor collection of interior road ways. Poor planning has virtually turned areas of Barrie into a drivers worst nightmare with overbuilding and construction zones that tie up traffic even during weekdays.
Barrie is served by highways 400 and 26 (the latter known as Bayfield Street within Barrie). Highway 400 goes right through the city on a roughly north-south basis, and Highway 26 starts at the 400 interchange with Bayfield St. and runs to the north-west. Barrie was once served by Ontario Highways 90, 27, 131 and 11 but after the province downgraded many highways in the late 1990s, these are now known as Simcoe County Road 90 (Dunlop Street), Simcoe County Road 27, Simcoe County Road 30, and the portion of Highway 11 through Barrie is Yonge Street.
Arterial roads within the city include Mapleview Drive, Ferndale Drive, 10th Line, Big Bay Point Road, Huronia Road and Penatanguishene Road (formerly Highway 11/400A Simcoe Road 93).
Public transport is provided by Barrie Transit, which operates numerous bus routes within the city. Accessible transit is offered by booking with city run Barrie Accessible Community Transportation Service. Most regular bus routes operated by Barrie Transit are accessible using low floor vehicles.
Interurban / Commuter Rail
GO Transit connects the city to the Greater Toronto Area through daily train service, with trains operating from the Barrie South GO Station. This is primarily a commuter rail service to the GTA, with southbound trips in the morning rush hour, and northbound trips in the evening rush hour. As of 2011, a second GO train station is being constructed closer to the city centre, on the (Allandale Station) lands. The grand opening of this second station is expected in autumn, 2011.
Interurban / Commuter Bus
In addition to train service, GO Transit also offers daily commuter-oriented bus service to the Greater Toronto Area. Barrie is also served by vatious private interurban bus lines such as Penetang-Midland Coach Lines and parent Greyhound Canada, which run buses between Barrie and Toronto’s Yorkdale Bus Terminal. Greyhound operates QuickLink commuter service from Barrie to Toronto seven days a week. In the past Gray Coach offered service from Toronto to Barrie; the route was later acquired by Greyhound. Ontario Northland operates bus routes from various locations to and from Barrie. All inter-urban buses operate from the Barrie Transit Terminal at 24 Maple Street.
Historically, Barrie was served by scheduled passenger rail service. Allandale Station was a stop for the Grand Trunk Railway, Canadian National Railway and Via Rail. In addition, Ontario Northland’s Northlander used the station as a stop, as did CN Rail/Via Rail (namely The Canadian). Regular passenger rail service to the station ended in the 1980s and has largely been replaced by interurban / commuter rail service.
In 2006, the Barrie Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was identified by Statistics Canada as the fastest growing CMA in Canada. As of 2006, Barrie and the surrounding area had 177,061 residents, which included the City of Barrie’s 128,430 residents (Source: Statistics Canada, 2006). Current 2011 population estimates are around 145,000 for the City proper.
Barrie has two major English school boards that operate inside the city at a public level. The Simcoe County District School Board administers a Public education in Barrie and Simcoe County, while the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board administers to the Catholic population and serves the Simcoe and Muskoka areas. It also has two French school boards, Le Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud and Le Conseil scolaire de district du Centre-Sud-Ouest. There are also several private schools both for K-8 and K-12.
Georgian College’s main campus, with over 10,000 full-time students and approximately 25,000 part-time students, is located in Barrie. Georgian College offers a wide variety of diplomas and is well known in Canada and abroad for many quality programs, an exceptionally high graduate employment rate (94% and the highest in Ontario), and student and employer satisfaction rates.
Georgian College is home to the University Partnership Centre (UPC), which offers numerous Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from various universities including Laurentian University, York University, Nipissing University, Embry-Riddle University and Central Michigan University. The UPC has been partnering with universities since 1997 and as of 2011, serves over 2400 students. The construction of the Centre for Health and Wellness will ensure Georgian has the capacity to expand its University Partnership Centre to offer even more degree and advanced-degree level studies.
Georgian College is also home of the School of Health and Wellness, which as of 2011 is undergoing a $65 million, 165,000-square-foot expansion, called the “Centre for Health and Wellness”. This Centre will allow Georgian to double its current 1,500 health program students to 3,000 and allow students to pursue health and wellness related certificates, diplomas and degrees, including advanced degree programs. It will also be home to a bevy of health care services teaching clinics open to the public, as well as leading-edge laboratories, and technology-enhanced classrooms.
The recently constructed “Centre for Sustainable Technologies” is also located in Georgian College’s Barrie Campus. This new $8 million, 18,000 square foot facility opened in 2009 and is home to construction and energy-related programming and skills training. The Centre serves as a learning lab with technology and systems that demonstrate where the future of the industry is headed on all building projects.
Barrie is home to vibrant performing and fine arts scenes. There are a number of live performance companies including Theatre by the Bay, Talk Is Free Theatre and the Huronia Symphony. Grove Park Home is the practice hall for On Stage Performance Group which performs in Cookstown. The Strolling Youth Players, and the Kempenfelt Community Players also all perform in Barrie. In addition, an annual live concert series is hosted by Georgian College.
There are two main performing arts venues in the city: the Mady Centre For The Performing Arts, and Georgian Theatre. The Mady Centre For The Performing Arts is located in Barrie €™s downtown at the Five Points intersection and was completed in 2011. This modern facility is home to many professional and amateur cultural productions, film screenings, theatrical plays, concerts, dance recitals and other performances. It is also the main venue for Theatre by the Bay and the Talk Is Free Theatre Companies. The venue features a flexible stage area with lighting and sound for professional theatre, music, dance, and other presentations, an automated riser/seating system with capacity for 120 to 200 seats and a sprung performance floor.
Georgian Theatre is a professional performing arts facility located in Barrie’s north end on the campus of Georgian College. The theatre features a proscenium stage, sound, lights, fly gallery, and seating for 427 on the main level with 3 pods which can be used to increase the seating capacity to 690. The Theatre is used for both theatrical and non-theatrical activity including conferences and seminars.
Ron Baird’s The Spirit Catcher (1986) is an example of the large sculptures installed along the waterfront in Barrie, OntarioCanada