Steele's China Shop, located on the corner of Collier and Bayfield streets, was built in 1884 as a carriage shop. It is now behind scaffolding; the city issued a demolition permit two weeks ago and chances may be slim to have this building designated as historically significant by Heritage Barrie.
Steele's China Shop, located on the corner of Collier and Bayfield streets dates back to 1873 when two Barrie residents, James Barr and William Henry, started a company making wooden parts for carriages. By 1881 they had built a two-storey blacksmith shop on Bayfield Street, and just two years later began construction of a three-storey commercial building on the corner of Bayfield and Collier streets.
When completed in 1884, this polychromatic brick building precisely fit the unusually angled corner and was equipped with the most modern carriage-making technology of the time. Its first floor was a showroom and had an office, while the second was where painting and varnishing took place. This was reached by a special elevator that was large enough to hold a wagon or carriage. The third floor contained the trim shop and storage. It was accessible from the second floor of the blacksmith shop built behind 2 Collier St.
Harris Steele, a long-time downtown Barrie businessman, died in December of 2007 at age 76. He was the owner of Steele’s China and Gift Shop, after coming to Barrie in the late 1940s from Newfoundland. His parents, Samuel and Sybil Steele, set up the fine china shop at 2 Collier St., and Harris got into the business right out of Barrie Central Collegiate. Besides his passion for fine china, Steele was a sailor, very involved in the Barrie Yacht Club, the Grey and Simcoe Foresters and with the Rotary Club of Barrie. Steele had a quadruple bypass in early December of 2007 and was on the road to recovery, before suffering a massive stroke in his sleep on Dec. 14. He died two days later in Orillia’s Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, surrounded by family and friends.