Home / Accueil

Old City Hall

116 Prince William Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1982/03/18

This photograph shows the facades on Prince William Street and Princess Street, 2005 ; City of Saint John
Old City Hall - Contextual view
This photograph shows the pavilion roof and the arched pediment, 2005; City of Saint John
Old City Hall - Roof and Pediment
This photograph shows the entrance and the projecting flat stone hood with balustrade that forms a balcony, 2005; City of Saint John
Old City Hall - Entrance and Balustrade

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1878/01/01 to 1879/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/01/09

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Old City Hall is a three-and-a-half storey sandstone and brick Second Empire institutional building on Prince William Street. It is located within the Trinity Royal Preservation Area of the City of Saint John.

Heritage Value

Old City Hall is designated a Local Historic Place for its use as City Hall by the City of Saint John from 1879, just 2 years after the Great Saint John Fire of 1877, until the new City Hall was built in 1971.

In the 1860's, King Square was considered as a location for City Hall but the public outcry was so boisterous that the city decided to occupy the Commercial Bank Building, which stood on this site until that building was destroyed by fire in 1877. The contents of the corner stone of the Commercial Bank Building now lay under the cornerstone of this present structure. On May 29th 1878, the Masonic fraternity marched from Germain Street to the Court House where they were met by the Mayor, City Council, and civic officials. They walked to the site of this building and the corner stone of the building was laid with the ceremony of the Masonic fraternity, by the Grand Master, Robert T. Clinch. Despite the great architectural display in this building, plans for a new building were considered as early as 1901 but none of these proposals became reality. In 1967, with the amalgamation of Lancaster and Simonds with Saint John, the city finally followed through with a plan for a new City Hall, the first since the construction of this building in 1879.

Old City Hall is also recognized for its imposing presence and brilliant Second Empire architecture. The building was constructed under contract by James G. McDonald from the designs of architects McKean and Fairweather. The two façades of the building were built of sandstone from the New Brunswick Freestone Company quarry in Albert County. The other walls and partitions are of brick. This building is an excellent example of institutional Second Empire architecture from the rebuilding period following the fire in 1877. The quality of the workmanship and elaborate design represent the will of the city to rebuild, as well or better, after the fire.

Source: Department of Planning and Development - City of Saint John

Character-Defining Elements

The character defining elements that describe Old City Hall include:
- continuous use as Saint John City Hall for nearly 100 years;
- rectangular three-and-a-half storey massing;
- sandstone and brick construction;
- frontage of 17.7 metres on Prince William Street and 14.2 metres on Princess Street, filling the width of the lot;
- similar set back with other buildings on the block face;
- modillions under main cornice and pediment;
- central projection on Prince William Street façade with a pavilion roof;
- façade ornamented with paired ionic pilasters with carved capitals under a brocken curved pediment;
- projecting stone hood over the entrance, with a stone and iron balustrade forming a balcony for the Mayor's office;
- balustrade at the roof-line;
- first and second floor Roman arch windows with continuous moulded headers;
- window and entrance keystones;
- heavily moulded sills and stringcourse carried along at the second and third levels;
- third floor segmented arch windows with moulded headers;
- mansard roof with stone pedimented Lutheran windows;
- prominent stone chimneys with moulded bands and curved tops.



New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Municipal Heritage Preservation Act, s.5(1)

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Preservation Act

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1879/01/01 to 1971/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Governing Canada
Government and Institutions
Governing Canada
Politics and Political Processes

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Town or City Hall

Architect / Designer

McKean and Fairweather


James G. McDonald

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Planning and Development Department - City of Saint John

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places



Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places