Description of Historic Place
The John A. McAvity Residence is a brick two-and-a-half storey Second Empire building with an off-centred entrance and a two storey bay window on the front façade. It is located on Orange Street within the Orange Street Preservation Area of the City of Saint John.
The John A. McAvity Residence is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture and for its association with its former occupants.
The John A. McAvity Residence is recognized as one of a collection of Italianate and Second Empire buildings that were built after two thirds of the City of Saint John were destroyed by fire in 1877. Built in 1879 for Jane E. Chubb, this residence is a good example of brick Second Empire residential architecture from the rebuilding period in the Orange Street Preservation Area of Saint John after the fire. 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.
The John A. McAvity is also recognized for its association with those who have resided here. This building was rented out to various individuals for short periods. In 1891, Ira Cornwall purchased this home. A native of Windsor, Ontario, he was a prominent Saint John insurance agent. After working with the Montreal Gazette for a time, he obtained a position with the Royal Insurance Company in England. While stationed there, he simultaneously acted as an inspector, as well as the Agent General for New Brunswick. In the 1880s the company transferred him to Saint John. After a relatively short period, Cornwall was appointed Secretary of the Board of Trade. He remained at this Orange Street residence until his death in 1897.
The building remained vacant until 1899 when John A. McAvity came to this address. He was the son of Thomas A. McAvity, a former Saint John Mayor and founder of the firm T. McAvity & Sons, Ltd. This large, maritime based business involved the manufacture, retail and wholesale of hardware such as valves and fittings. McAvity initially gained employment in his father’s business as a clerk, and was later incorporated along with his brother George McAvity. For several years, he was made the head of the retail and wholesale department located on King Street. In the years to come, he became the head of the plumbing department at the head office on Water Street. Following his father’s death, he rose to Vice-President in the Company, while his brother George acted as President. The business experienced a huge boom during the First World War, as it altered its focus to producing ammunitions for the British Army, and later, the United States Military. During this period, another factory was constructed on Rothesay in order to meet the demands of the war. In the years to follow, the business continued to expand and branches opened in Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. By the time of his death, he was heralded as being one of the most prominent and successful businessmen in the mercantile enterprise. McAvity remained at his Orange Street residence until his death in 1931.
Source: Planning and Development Department - City of Saint John
The character defining elements that describe the John A. McAvity Residence include:
- rectangular two-and-a-half storey massing;
- mansard roof;
- brick exterior walls;
- pediment dormers ornamented by dentils;
- cornice supported by brick corbelled brackets with brick corbel bands below;
- two-storey, semi-octagonal bay window;
- rectangular vertical sliding wooden windows with decorative sandstone lintels and sandstone sills;
- brick corbel bands in the spandrel between the first and second storey;
- decorative brickwork headers of the first storey windows of the bay;
- entrance with pediment, elaborate brick and sandstone segmented arch flanked by sandstone trimmings and supported by fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals;
- segmented arched transom window above paired wooden doors with glass panels;
- sandstone plinth band;
- sandstone steps.