Notable Barrie Resident Immortalized With Kempenfelt Park Plaque

James Gowan Wore Many Hats

Kempenfelt Park will soon be graced with a plaque with insight on the park’s own origins. The City of Barrie has received an Ontario Heritage Plaque to be placed at Kempenfelt Park letting folks know some of the history behind the land, and the name Gowan.

When the district of Simcoe was created in 1843, 27-year-old James Robert Gowan took up the post as Simcoe County’s first judge. Gowan and his parents purchased seven acres overlooking the bay, between Duckworth Street and St. Vincent Park, and named the estate ‘Ardraven’.

After Gowan died in 1909, his heirs donated the section of Ardraven on the water side of Kempenfelt Bay to the Town of Barrie for use as a public park, now known as Kempenfelt Park.

The Ontario Heritage Plaque to be installed at Kempenfelt Park joins six existing plaques around the city. They are:

  • ‘Andrew Frederick Hunter 1863-1940’ – located at 37 Mulcaster Street
  • ‘Hewitt Bernard 1825-1893’ – located at Waterfront Heritage Trail’s Station 8
  • ‘Simcoe County Court House and Gaol’ – located at 87 Mulcaster Street
  • ‘Steamboating on Lake Simcoe’ – located at Waterfront Heritage Trail Station 6
  • ‘Nine Mile Portage’ – Memorial Square/Meridian Place (temporarily removed for construction)
  • ‘William Edward Gallie’ – broken, and in storage, slated for replacement at Queen’s Park

Gowan became known for his contributions to the legal development of Ontario, along with his efforts to support the local community and as a member of the Trinity Anglican Church in the city. A founding member of the Barrie Grammar School in 1843, Gowan also served as Chairman of the school board for twenty-one years ending in 1892. James Gowan died on March 18, 1909 and is buried in the family vault at Barrie Union Cemetery.

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