The Frontenac County Schools Museum is situated in Barriefield Village. Presently the Village is a secluded, serene place but it wasn’t always this way. Barriefield was once a bustling place. Highway 15 ran straight through the Village on what is now Main Street. Taverns flourished in such lively locations. Taverns are unique spaces that provide insight into social history of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Men and women, indigenous peoples, and upper and lower class individuals interacted regularly in these places creating a diverse environment. A common misconception is that taverns encouraged excess drinking and rough housing. In reality, taverns were very civilized and organized places. Rules for running taverns were strict. Intoxication, gambling, and immoral persons were prohibited (at the time, immoral persons would have meant those exuding inappropriate behaviour). The purposeful organization of taverns into refined spaces reflected their civility. Taverns were required to have a designated bar-room, a dining room, at least four bedrooms, stables, and sheds for carriages. These separated spaces allowed for a controlled crowd. Those looking to drink could do so in the bar-room. The dining room was a space physically and metaphorically distanced from the activity of drinking. Activities such as club meetings or business transactions could take place in a space like the dining room. The upper classes also utilized dining rooms to remove themselves from the lower class who often crowded the bar-room. It is therefore not surprising that meetings were held at Medley House (210 Main Street) to discuss the construction of St. Mark’s Church.

There were often many taverns clustered in the same area; in Barriefield there were three or four at any one time. The first tavern in the village was the Richmond Hotel (239 Main Street), run by John Martin, established c. 1818. Another early tavern was Morton’s Inn (246 James Street) c. 1830, built by George Morton. Miles Byrnes’ Hotel and Grocery (223/225 Main Street) ran from 1873-1913. This property was originally Alexander Mayberry House and functioned as an Inn during the 1860’s. The Pittsburgh Inn (236 James Street) was run by William Walker from 1838 to 1840, and in 1867, was purchased by William Hutton and renamed Dominion House.

Henry John Jones, an upperclassmen, spent time in Kingston taverns and recorded his experiences in a journal. Jones and other upperclassmen in Kingston frequented Principal Houses, large hotels that catered to the upper class. Upperclassmen regarded the suburbs of Kingston, like Barriefield, to be occupied by the working class. They were especially troubled by these poor residents. Despite the prejudice of the upper class toward the working class, the Village was indeed inhabited by working class individuals. Within the Museum’s collection is a Barriefield Scrapbook created by a Mrs. Clarke in 1939 that attests to this. The scrapbooks lists occupations of Village residents during 1850 and includes Ann Anderson, grocer; John Medley, butche;, and Robert Johnson, stone-cutter. Because of an abundance of working class individuals and the prejudice towards them, it is likely that Barriefield did not have a Principal House. Men like Henry John Jones would not have spent time in Barriefield taverns.

The Temperance Acts of 1864 and 1878 were responsible for the decline in taverns. Excessive drinking was now controlled by the law. Road improvements also made travel faster and therefore the need for taverns as a place to stay the night steadily declined; almost all taverns were closed by 1917.  Due to the loss of  taverns as a place for entertainment, new places stepped into this role. One unofficial place for dancing was the Pittsburgh Town Hall in Barriefield, the current location of the Frontenac County Schools Museum.


Kayla Benevento