Description of Historic Place
The Bank of New Brunswick Building is a two-storey freestone Greek Revival building with six Corinthian columns supporting a large peaked pediment over the Prince William Street façade. The building extends to a four-storey brick façade with storefront on Water Street. It is located within the boundaries of the Trinity Royal Heritage Conservation Area of the City of Saint John.
The Bank of New Brunswick Building is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture, for its location and for its banking role in the City of Saint John.
Built in 1879, the Bank of New Brunswick Building is recognized as an expression of the significance of a Saint John commercial district. It is one of a collection of government, commercial and residential buildings that were built between 1877 and 1881 after two thirds of the City of Saint John were destroyed by the Great Saint John Fire of 1877. This building serves as a reminder of that fire and the strong will of the residents of Saint John to rebuild the city. The brick and stone architecture sent a message that the city would be more fire resistant in the future and the elements and design in this building as well as the rest of the collection demonstrate that the city was going to be rebuilt as well or better than the city that was lost. This building is located within the Trinity Royal Heritage Conservation Area, officially recognized by the City of Saint John in 1982.
The Bank of New Brunswick Building is one of a collection of buildings that form the federally designated Prince William Streetscape. In 1981, this streetscape became the first federally designated historic streetscape in Canada. This historic streetscape is distinguished by its rare concentration of homogeneous, primarily late 19th-century architecture. Traditionally referred to as "The Wall Street of Saint John", the area contains major public buildings, banks, hotels, insurance, shipping and legal offices, and the Seamen's Institute and Mission. More than half of these structures were erected immediately after the 1877 fire. The work of prominent architects of Scottish, American and Canadian origin, the buildings represent solid, dignified and sometimes flamboyant interpretations of contemporary styles and building technology.
Henry Starbuck, formerly of Boston, was the architect of this building, and the design was based on that of the bank that was destroyed in the fire. The Prince William Street façade of this building was constructed with the best native freestone, in the Corinthian Classical Style with projecting peaked pediment supported by six stone columns over the entranceway. The windows of plate glass represented a late-19th century innovation. Also notable is the four-storey brick façade with street-level storefront that fronts Water Street. The use of less expensive yet detailed brick on this façade reflects the "presence" that this prominent building projected to the working port of Saint John and people arriving by vessel or foot via Water Street, rather than by carriage on Prince William Street.
The Bank of New Brunswick Building is also recognized for its role in the local economy. Formed in 1820, the Bank of New Brunswick was Canada's first chartered bank. The crest of the Bank of New Brunswick, which once adorned the building, now hangs in the Bank of Nova Scotia at Brunswick Square in Saint John. When the Bank of New Brunswick amalgamated with the Bank of Nova Scotia in 1913 this became the Bank of Nova Scotia building for the next 64 years. The Bank of Nova Scotia left in 1977 and moved to King Street. This building served the banking needs of Saint John residents from 1879 to 1977.
Source: Department of Planning and Development - City of Saint John
The character defining elements that describe the Bank of New Brunswick Building include:
- two-storey rectangular plan;
- freestone construction;
- large roofline classical cornice;
- large central pediment decorated with modillions and supported by six two-storey fluted Corinthian columns;
- two fluted Corinthian pilasters at the corners of the front façade;
- "1820 BANK OF NEW BRUNSWICK 1878" etched into fascia below the pediment;
- window placement and proportions;
- small square 3/3 wood windows in second storey;
- high rectangular wood windows in lower storey;
- intricate floral detailing in surrounds of doors and windows;
- central entranceway;
- paired wood-paneled doors;
- date stone "BANK 1826" covered by a small decorative entablature.
The character-defining elements relating to the Water Street façade include:
- four-storey brick façade facing the Port of Saint John;
- detailed brickwork with masonry trimmings;
- ground-level storefront;
- large 2/2 windows, providing natural light into the banking hall as well as spaces used for ancillary purposes.