Marysville Historic District National Historic Site of Canada

Fredericton, New Brunswick
Photo of part of the Marysville Historic District National Historic Site of Canada. (© Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada.)
General view
(© Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada.)
Address : Marysville, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1993-11-20
  • 1840 to 1920 (Construction)
  • 1862 to 1862 (Significant)
  • 1883 to 1890 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Alexander "Boss" Gibson  (Person)
  • Lockwood, Greene & Company, Boston  (Architect)
  • B. Mooney & Sons, Saint John  (Builder)
Other Name(s):
  • Marysville Historic District  (Designation Name)


Existing plaque:  New Brunswick

Marysville is a rare example of a 19th-century company town possessing both its plant and its company-built housing. These historic structures remind us of two important economic activities, the exploitation of the forests and the establishment of domestic industries behind the high tariff walls of the Macdonald government's National Policy. Originating as a logging community focused on a row of houses along the east bank of the Nashwaak, Marysville became the heart of Alexander "Boss" Gibson's industrial empire after he purchased it in 1862. He transformed the hamlet by adding facilities to manufacture lumber, wood products and bricks, which his railways and riverboats took to market. In 1883 he commissioned the prominent American firm of Lockwood, Greene and Company to prepare plans for one of the largest cotton mills in the country as the centrepiece of his community. The architects also designed a handsome boarding house for single employees and rows of single and double brick houses for families. The historic community retains much of its former character and testifies eloquently to the origins of Canada's industrial economy.

Description of Historic Place

Marysville is a former industrial (now residential) community, comprised of a 19th-century rehabilitated cotton mill, former shops and extensive surviving housing. It is located on the banks of the Nashwaak River on the outskirts of the city of Fredericton. The buildings are arranged around the former mill, with the former commercial area nearby. Primarily brick row and semi-detached housing is concentrated along the east side of the river. The principal resources include: the rehabilitated late 19th-century brick cotton mill; brick tenement housing nearby (39 duplexes, 14 single houses and a fire-damaged former boarding house); 11 frame duplexes along the east riverbank; two former shopkeepers houses and a former shop on Mill and Canada streets; and 19 residential properties (formerly for managers) along Canada Street.

Heritage Value

The Marysville Historic District was designated a national historic site as a rare example of a single-industry company town of the 19th century possessing both its plant and company housing; as a historic district containing a full range of community facilities, including industrial, commercial and residential buildings, erected between c1840 and 1890; and because it largely retains its 19th-century appearance and character. The area is also associated with, and illustrates two important historical themes – the staples trade and the industrial development of Canada under the National Policy. The former Marysville Cotton Mill also has an individual designation as a national historic site.

Marysville originated as a logging community, with a lumber mill on the west bank of Nashwaak River and a row of workers’ housing along the opposite bank. The “White Row” duplexes on River Street reflect this c1840s era.

In 1862, Alexander “Boss” Gibson purchased the mill property, naming it Marysville and adding manufacturing facilities, housing and a commercial area. A wood-frame store and nine houses in the Nob Hill area reflect the Gibson lumber mill era. Their design and materials are typical of those used for mid-19th-century, working-class residences in New Brunswick. Seven duplexes represent original buildings from the mid-nineteenth century. Five duplexes were rebuilt in 1920 to replace buildings destroyed by a 1920 sawmill fire. The arrangement of duplexes in a row along the riverbank reflects their mid-19th-century configuration.

Marysville reflects the Macdonald administration’s use of the National Policy to create an industrial economy in Canada. In 1883, encouraged by the introduction of protective tariffs under the National Policy, Gibson hired Boston architects Lockwood, Greene & Company to design a state-of-the-art cotton mill at Marysville. Lockwood, Greene & Company also designed a planned community around the mill, with brick tenement housing for workers, additional managers’ housing, and an enlarged commercial area. Surviving brick workers’, managers’ and merchants’ housing, together with the mill, reflect the cotton mill era at Marysville.

The planned community at Marysville is among the earliest and most complete Canadian examples of an integrated industrial/ residential community. It reflects the paternal model of 19th-century labour relations, in which industrialists sought to control the working and living conditions of workers, with a view to optimizing production. The high quality, brick construction of both tenements and mill reflect Gibson’s optimism for the community. The Mill Street commercial area reflects the paternal model of industrialism practised by Gibson, in which company shops were provided for mill employees within the integrated setting of the industrial/residential community. Surviving buildings represent the commercial needs of a 19th-century community, and include residences provided for merchants.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2002.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
the completeness of company town facilities including a former plant (the cotton mill), former company housing and survivals of community facilities, the homogeneity of scale, design, construction techniques and materials among residential buildings, the high quality, solid brick construction and decorative brickwork of the tenement housing, mill, and buildings in the Mill Street commercial area, the relationship of buildings to the river and each other, with the mill centrally located on the east riverbank; commercial shops located on the west riverbank but close to the mill; workers’ tenement housing concentrated on five streets close to the mill; and managers’ housing distributed along the west side of the river, the location of managers’ housing on the high ground and the location of the mill and workers’ housing on the low ground of the east bank, the former Marysville Cotton Mill with its four-storey, rectangular massing, a central, five-storey tower on its front façade; and a two-storey rear annex; brick construction materials; generous, regularly organized fenestration on all facades; its river siting and central location, the brick tenement housing comprising 53 two-storey houses (39 duplexes and 14 single houses) and a former three-storey, boarding house; their brick construction; symmetrical facades; gable roofs; the six-bay, two-storey, two-unit plan of the duplexes; the five-bay; two-storey single houses; the three-storey former boarding house on a corner lot, the compact layout of the housing terraces and streets, in rows along Bridge, Morrison, Allen and Downing streets, the White Row (River Street) housing with its 11 duplexes, arranged in a row along the river bank and seven surviving examples from the lumber mill era, in their found form, scale and construction materials, the Mill Street commercial area with the former Gibson company store in its found form and materials; the brick construction of No. 17 Mill Street; No. 31 Mill Street; and the former post office, Nob Hill (Canada Street) housing with its 17 wood-frame houses, 2 brick houses, with their Maritime vernacular plans, bold detailing and nineteenth-century construction materials and methods; their linear arrangement on spacious lots overlooking the river.