Edgar Baynes was born to Harriet Amelia and George Baynes on Fens Farm in Brocking, Essex England. He had 5 brothers and sisters: Hetty, Kate, Alfred, Jim, and Lila. He and his family moved to Stisted Hall, Essex in 1874 and were educated at Braintree Board School.
Edgar ran away from home in 1883 and joined a firm of builders in 1884. He spent 5 years learning the building trade.
On April 4, 1889, he left for Liverpool on the S.S. Sarnia for Halifax as an apprentice to Mr Joseph Franklin. He arrived in Halifax on the 14th, took a train to Vancouver, and arrived in Vancouver on the 22nd.
On March 7, 1890, he left for Squamish from Vancouver at age 19 with his friends Harry Judd and A.J. (Bert) Crysler and their friend Drummond. They left in a sailboat that Crysler and Judd had made. He pre-empted on an island in the Squamish River, now known as Baynes Island (in the area of an Indian graveyard).
In 1892, Edgar left Squamish to become a carpenter in Vancouver. During his time he placed long firm beams in the Christ Church Cathedral.
In 1893, he established Baynes and Horie Construction Company with William Horie. The office was in the Baynes house at 634 East Georgia. They would build many of the early buildings on Water and Cordova Streets and more schools than any other contractor in the province. His company also got a contract to erect Entrance Island Lighthouse near Nanaimo (paid $2308).
On April 15, 1899, he married Margaret Anderson McAlpine in First Presbyterian Church at Gore and Hastings. She was born at Lindsay, Ontario in 1874 and came to BC in 1889.
In 1901, he took a trip back to England to see his family. His first two children, Doris Lillian (Mrs Ewart Woolliams) and Jean Hetty (Mrs Alan King) were born between 1901 and 1905.
In 1906, Edgar organized and became president of Port Haney Brick Company. His family moved from West Pender to Fairview (1200 West Broadway) to a house he had built. His other children, Ted and Margaret (Mrs Harry Cannon) were born here.
By 1907, Baynes and Will Horie owned Hany Brick Co. which would continue to run for 70 years (the only brick company in BC to do so). They supplied drain tile for the Fraser Valley and partition tile for the larger buildings in the province. It ceased production in July 1977.
Baynes and Horie built the factory building for Canadian Carbonated Co. from 1909 to 1910. In 1913, he built Grosvenor Hotel (840 Howe). He had to take over ownership himself during the depression that preceded World War I. He was the largest shareholder and operated it until his death. His family continued to manage it until 1973 when it was sold to Dutch family interests.
In 1925, he built the Douglas Lodge on Stewart Lake at Fort St. James and operated it for many years.
In 1946, Edgar was involved in a scandal where $28,000 was missing from the books at Grosvenor Hotel. Baynes charged his accountant Frederick Denis Whyte with theft. Whyte accused his employer of ordering him to "fix the books".
He died at age 86 in 1956. Mrs Baynes donated the house at 1200 West Broadway to the YMCA. The gift included 100 feet of land on Broadway and 125 feet on Alder. The YCMA bought an additional 50 feet on Broadway in 1968 for $28,000. This was used as a home for teenage girls and a cooperative for single parents. It was also Vancouver's first Indian center (1963), a day center housing Dutch immigrant families, and as a temporary main YWCA headquarter. The terms of the gift was that the YWCA had to keep the house for 20 years. It was used. In 1977 the house sold for $650,000. The money was used to help finance YWCA programs.
Mrs Baynes died in 1967. She had been living in the Arbutus Private Hosital.