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Number 2 Mechanics' Volunteer Company Engine House National Historic Site of Canada

24 Sydney Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/07/06

General view of Number 2 Mechanics' Volunteer Company Engine House National Historic Site of Canada, showing the classically-organised, symmetrical elevation, 2009.; Harold E. Wright, Heritage Resources / Ressources patrimoniales, Saint John, 2009.
General view
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Other Name(s)

Number 2 Mechanics' Volunteer Company Engine House National Historic Site of Canada
Number 2 Mechanics' Volunteer Company Engine House
Poste d'incendie de la No.2 Mechanics' Volunteer Company

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1840/01/01 to 1841/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/08/20

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Number 2 Mechanics’ Volunteer Company Engine House National Historic Site of Canada is a handsome stone fire hall facing King’s Square, the oldest public park in the heart of Saint John, New Brunswick. Sandwiched between the larger court house and a row of four-storey commercial buildings, the small, two-storey, pitched-roof building speaks to its time and function. Formal recognition refers to the legal property boundary at the time of designation (1995).

Heritage Value

Number 2 Mechanics’ Volunteer Company Engine House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995 because:
- the building, the work of a major local architect, is the earliest known example of a fire hall in Canada built to house hand-operated pumper fire engines;
- the engine house illustrates both the dominant use of the Neoclassical style in governmental buildings of all sorts in the middle decades of the 19th century, and the considerable role of volunteer fire associations in Victorian urban life;
- the building illuminates the class basis of firefighting in the period.

The frequency and severity of citywide fires so terrified Canadians in the early-19th century that communities began to construct permanent fire stations. Erected in 1840, this elegant neo-classical building is a pioneer example of a fire hall designed to house volunteer brigade using manually drawn and operated pumper fire engines. The work of local architect John Cunningham, this building recalls the earliest phase in the development of municipal fire fighting in Canada when volunteer fire brigades served as the best line of defence against devastating fires and played an important role in Victorian urban life. It operated as a fire hall until 1948 and is now open to the public as a museum of fire fighting.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 1995, July 1998.

Character-Defining Elements

Aspects of this site which contribute to its heritage value include:
- those elements which speak to the functions of the building as a fire hall, namely the large double doors, the open ground floor interior which housed the pump engine, and the building’s central location within the urban core;
- those elements which speak to the Neoclassical design of this modest building, namely the classically-organised, symmetrical elevation featuring evenly spaced openings, the multi-paned double-hung windows, pediment with demi-lune light, classically inspired mouldings, and smoothly worked ashlar masonry (both the original and the sympathetic replacement masonry);
- its setting next to the Saint John County Courthouse National Historic Site of Canada, another neo-classical government building designed by John Cunningham;
- the surviving wainscotting in the ground floor speaks to the dual use of the ground floor as an engine house and as a setting for social activities typical of volunteer fire associations of the time.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1840/01/01 to 1948/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type




Fire Station

Architect / Designer

John Cunningham



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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