History Hugh Sibbald was just about to leave work Saturday night when a piece of his family’s history went up in flames.
Night staff at The Briars Resort, which Sibbald runs, alerted him that the nearby Red Barn Theatre was on fire. He opened the gates for fire crews and watched as Canada’s oldest professional summer theatre burned to the ground.
“There wasn’t much they could do but keep it from spreading,” said Sibbald, whose great-great-uncle Frank built the barn in 1883 on the family’s land in Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe.
The fire started about 10:30 p.m. When it was extinguished about two hours later, nothing was left standing but two partial walls. The silo is the only part of the landmark that may be saved, Sibbald said.
Toronto actor Alfred Mulock rented the barn from the Sibbald family in 1949 and converted it into a theatre. It quickly developed into an important proving ground for young actors, and hosted some of the biggest Canadian stage stars, comedians and writers. Martha Henry, Barbara Hamilton and June Callwood all appeared at there.