Looking Back – Downtown Collingwood Fire Destroys Historic Temple Building

The Temple Building Stood Tall in Downtown Collingwood for 110 Years

A downtown Collingwood landmark was destroyed by fire on what was a pleasant summer night in September, 2000.

The Temple Building, constructed in 1890, lived its last weekend as fire broke out on a Saturday afternoon and raged through the night and early morning hours. By daylight, the top two floors had been gutted and the building’s roof had collapsed.

There was to be no life left for this historic structure.

The Temple building’s ground floor was occupied by commercial tenants. The longest serving business at the time of the fire was Smalley’s Cigar Store, established by the late Tom Smalley.

Sports Unlimited, owned and operated by Cam Trott, was destroyed in the fire.

“I was sharpening a pair of skates for Rick Fawcett, a fire fighter in Collingwood, when we smelled smoke. Rick was standing right beside me when I was sharpening his skates and he noticed smoke coming through the ceiling.”

Rick said “Cam, we have a problem here, we gotta get out.”

Cam and his employee began throwing hockey equipment out the back door in an attempt to save some stock but fire fighters arrived and cleared the building.

Trott eventually relocated just south of the Gayety Theatre and now operates Trott’s Sports Excellence at 290 Hurontario Street.

Trott’s store had replaced Stoutenburg Sports, a Collingwood family owned business that had operated in the building for three generations. If you were born and raised in Collingwood, your first CCM bicycle most likely was purchased at Stoutenburg’s, along with your first pair of skates and hockey stick.

Retired Fire Chief Sandy Cunningham said the fire was difficult to fight due to the age of the building.

“The internal structure was made entirely of wood thus being extremely flammable. We could only fight the fire from the front and the rear positions as the building was attached to the surrounding buildings. In Collingwood, we were fortunate that former Fire Chiefs McGuire and Taylor had the foresight to purchase a high rise Bronto Unit for high rise building fires. Also, our Public Utilities under the leadership of Ed Houghton had the foresight to install the appropriate sized water mains which delivered the required volume and pressure of water needed to extinguish a fire of this magnitude. We fought that fire throughout the night and were able to contain it to that one building. Fortunately, it all went off like clockwork.”

For many years, the late W.P. McLean’s law office was a fixture in the building, located just to the north of the main entrance. The late Dorothy Allan was McLean’s secretary. Donald F. McKay took over the law practice and operated a Collingwood office at the same location.

The second floor was home to a large auditorium and full kitchen facility. Over the years it hosted many community functions including minor hockey banquets, dances and community celebrations and meetings. Washrooms and coat rooms also occupied the second floor.

The third floor was home to the Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOOF) on the south side and the Masonic Lodge on the North side.

The entrance was off Hurontario Street. A seemingly endless flight of wooden stairs serviced the three storey building. It was a long climb. In the 1980’s an elevator was installed at the rear of the building.

The fire grew quickly

Initially it appeared as though the fire had been contained to the northern ground floor retail unit. However the situation soon turned severe as flames climbed to the second and third storeys en route to engulfing the entire third floor.

Retired Chief Cunningham said that on his way to the fire he radioed dispatch to call for Mutual Aid from Wasaga Beach and Clearview.

“I knew, without question, that we were going to need backup.”

The Next Day

The third floor lodge rooms were destroyed, along with many heritage treasures. Surprisingly, the Master’s chair from the Masonic Lodge was saved from the building. The chair did not receive any fire damage.

Some historic items were saved from the third floor lodge rooms
— Photos: Paul Richards

The new Temple Building was constructed to look as much like the original building as possible. Today, it is a prominent landmark in downtown Collingwood.

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