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For the week of Monday December 31, 2012

On January 1, 1829, the Arts Building at King's College (currently the University of New Brunswick) opened in Fredericton, N.B. The building has seen numerous knowledge seekers pass through its doors for more than 180 years!  

University of New Brunswick [1926]
© Library and Archives Canada / R231-2706-6-E / 1926

When New Brunswick separated from Nova Scotia in 1784, New Brunswickers requested their own post-secondary schools. They hoped that the creation of a legitimate post-secondary institution would prevent locals from seeking education outside the province. In response, a New Brunswick academy of liberal arts and science was opened in Fredericton in the 1790s. The institution's initial charter advocated the creation of a secular institution which was, although unsuccessful, a liberal idea for an era of church-dominated education.

However, excessive government intervention in the academy's curriculum caused the institution to be dismissed as a "country school." After re-organizing education at the academy, it received a Provincial Charter in 1800 and became the College of New Brunswick. Many prominent New Brunswickers argued that by bestowing a Royal Charter on the college it would make the school even more prestigious. The Royal Charter was granted to the college in 1827, and it was formally named King's College. As part of the institution's transformation, the cornerstone for a fine new building to house the college was laid by New Brunswick's Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Howard Douglas, in 1826.

Façade of the Arts Building, University of New Brunswick
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1987
It was constructed out of local grey stone according to a classically inspired design. It is rectangular in shape and symmetrical in appearance, with slightly projecting central and end pavilions, and a central entryway. In 1876, a mansard roof was added to give the building a third floor. Once used as the offices and living area of the university president, the Arts Building now houses the university's administration. King's College became the University of New Brunswick in 1859.

The Arts Building at King's College was designated a national historic site for its unique history as the oldest university building still in use in Canada.

For more information on the development of education in Canada see This Week in History archives: A Pioneer of Women's University Education, Sir John William Dawson: Dedicated to Quality Education, The Pictou Pastor: Educating with Humour, The University of Ottawa: Uniting Diverse Students Since 1848, The Queen's University, and "Take This Lamp of Learning...".     

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