1 Chipman Hill National Historic Site of Canada

Saint John, New Brunswick
Exterior ¾ Photo of brick façade (© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada 1993 (HRS 0544))
1 Chipman Hill
(© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada 1993 (HRS 0544))
Address : 1 Prince William Street / Chipman Hill, Saint John, New Brunswick

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1984-06-13
  • 1854 to 1860 (Construction)
  • 1870 to 1880 (Significant)

Other Name(s):
  • 1 Chipman Hill  (Designation Name)
  • Pratt House  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1997-OB-03 Jun


Existing plaque:  1 Prince William Street / Chipman Hill, Saint John, New Brunswick

Remarkable for the range of trompe l'il effects and skillful execution, the wall and ceiling paintings inside this residence, part of a row of similar town houses, reflect the taste of the High Victorian era. Combining classical and Renaissance influences, the paintings create the illusion of sculpture, wall panelling, materials and textures. These works, probably executed in the 1870s, are an expression of the wealth of a successful entrepreneur. This is a rare surviving example of early artistic painted decoration in a Canadian home.

Description of Historic Place

1 Chipman Hill is a mid-19th-century brick townhouse. It is located at the top of Chipman Hill in the historic section of downtown Saint John. The formal recognition consists of the townhouse and the legal property on which it sat at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

1 Chipman Hill was designated a national historic site in 1984 because of the scale and variety of the illusionist paintings in its interior.

The interior of 1 Chipman Hill provides a rare and early example of the type of artistic wall and ceiling paintings favoured in affluent homes in late 19th century domestic interiors of the affluent middle class. Likely created in the 1870s, the paintings reflect the High Victorian taste for painted illusions of textures and depths, imitations of materials, and revivals of historical motifs.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, 1984.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that relate to the heritage value of 1 Chipman Hill are: the surviving painted wall decorations and plaster mouldings in the vestibule and the front part of the double parlour on the opposite side walls of the vestibule, two trompe l'oeil paintings depicting the classical figures of Psyche and Cupid, painted in grisaille and shaded to give a three-dimensional effect plaster mouldings on the ceiling of the front parlour, comprised of: a broad band of ribbed moulding bordering the ceiling, with curved, cut-out corners; roundels in each of the four corners of the ceiling; and a large, central, gilt-trimmed medallion trompe l'oeil paintings on the ceiling of the front parlour, comprised of: polychromatic Cupids in each of the corner roundels; painted-rope moulding framing the ceiling; a broad band of panels of leaf scrolls and flowers suggesting three-dimensional plasterwork touched with gilt; oval medallions with polychrome-painted, classical-style heads on a gilt background; and a colourful band of painted flowers within the central plaster medallion trompe l'oeil painted panels on the walls of the front parlour, comprised of: alternating wide and narrow panels; painted mouldings trimming each panel; in the narrow panels, paintings of trophies, ribbons, fruit, vegetables, urns, jugs and glasses executed in subtle tones with touches of gilt; and a painted cornice in an egg-and-dart pattern above each panel evidence of the conspicuous affluence of the owner in the formal organization of the house, including its urban townhouse design with three-bay façade, symmetrically balanced fenestration, side entrance with elaborately sculpted entry door under a classically detailed portico, and interior plan with vestibule leading to hallway and double drawing room