Fredericton City Hall National Historic Site of Canada
Fredericton, New Brunswick
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
397 Queen Street, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1875 to 1876
Event, Person, Organization:
McKean and Fairweather
Crosby and Campbell
Fredericton City Hall
Research Report Number:
Town Hall Study - 1984
Existing plaque: 397 Queen Street, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Built in 1875-1876 to the design of architects McKean and Fairweather, this is the oldest municipal hall in Atlantic Canada still used for civic administration. Its imposing exterior and the many functions it has performed illustrate the building's importance to community life. Originally the municipal offices and council chambers occupied the first storey, and a public hall, known as the Opera House, dominated the upper floor. The building is distinguished by the use of its basement as a market prior to 1951, a function rarely combined with municipal halls by the late 19th century.
Description of Historic Place
Fredericton City Hall is a three-storey, red-brick building built in 1875-1876 in the Second Empire style. It is prominently located on a corner lot in downtown Fredericton. The building is separated from the street by a large, paved, public square, known as Phoenix Square, with a fountain and paved walkways. The official recognition consists of the building and the legal property on which it sat at the time of designation.
Fredericton City Hall was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1984 because: its imposing exterior and the many functions it has performed illustrate the building’s importance to community life; it is the oldest municipal hall in Atlantic Canada still used for civic administration; and, the building is distinguished by the use of its basement as a market prior to 1951, a function rarely combined with municipal halls by the late 19th century.
Built in 1875-1876, Fredericton City Hall follows the Second Empire style, one frequently used for grand public buildings during the second half of the 19th century. Its commanding presence and function as a civic building are emphasized by the public square which fronts it.
Like many 19th-century municipal buildings, Fredericton City Hall was built to serve multiple civic functions. For more than 60 years, the ground floor contained municipal offices and council chambers, the upper storey contained an auditorium known as the Opera House, and the basement contained a market. The inclusion of a market in a town hall building was less common in the 1870s than earlier, as administrative functions gained in importance and complexity. In 1940, the council chambers moved to the upper storey auditorium and in 1951 the market vacated the building. The building continues to be used as municipal offices and council chambers.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1984.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Fredericton City Hall include: its tight, cubic massing with central tower; its Second Empire style, defined by its high hipped roof, central clock tower, projecting entrance portico, round-arch openings, dormers, corbel tables at the eaves, polychrome masonry detailing, and decorative iron work cresting; its polychromatic masonry detailing created by stone voussoirs over openings, corbel tables at the eaves, a decorative frieze with medallions over the entrance portico, an elaborately carved coat of arms, and a series of string courses surrounding the building, both raised and flush with the wall surface; the tall, narrow, round-topped openings with decorative wooden spandrels connecting circular third storey windows with paired second storey windows; its clock tower with eight-foot (2.4 metre) dials and original brass workings; the surviving original interior detailing such as the horseshoe balcony in the original opera house; the surviving original interior elements of layout and detailing reflecting its multifunctional use; the evidence of the use of its basement as a market prior to 1951; its set back on Phoenix Square, the city’s main public square; the surviving early elements of Phoenix Square, including the fountain, the placement of pathways, and its relationship to the city hall building and to adjacent streets; its prominent siting at the head of a major commercial street in the city’s downtown area, and backing onto the St. John River.