Fredericton – New Brunswick

Fredericton has been the capital of New Brunswick since 1785. The seat of the provincial government and administrative center is not linked to the size of the city. In fact, Fredericton is the 3rd largest city in the province after Moncton and St-John. 

The city sits next to a stretch of 135km (84 miles) of the St.John River. It is home to two (2) universities including the first one in Canada: the University of New Brunswick which dates back to 1785. Education, cultural and artistic highlights focus on the region.

Traveling here during summer, on a Sunday and Monday, in 2021 and on a rainy day are a series of imperfect contexts that take us to a place that felt like an inactive, dull and abandoned town.  Only a few restaurants were open, festivals were cancelled, stores and museums were closed. This is when you come to realize that this is a period of the year where students went back home and the public sectors are not in session.  In addition, most activities were cancelled due to the pandemic.  Luckily, the next morning we returned when the weather was nicer but our time was limited.

I hope your experience will be more animated. We still took the time to quickly stop or simply go by some interesting places: City Hall, Phoenix Square, Justice Building, Historic Garrison District, Fredericton Region Museum, Christ Church Cathedral, Wilmot United Church, Brunswick Street Baptist Church, New Brunswick Legislative Building, Hall of Fame Museum, the Greens, the playhouse and more.

Queen Street is the main street of the city and you will capture most of its main attractions if you stroll here. 

Fredericton City Hall

397 Queen Street

Geographically, the City Hall is likely to attract your attention. If you drive via York Street to reach Queen Street, the main street in Fredericton, you will see the City Hall sitting back on Phoenix Street. If your impression is like mine, you can easily imagine going back in time where sophisticated men wearing tall hats and women wearing beautiful long dresses and where horse-drawn carriages along the way would be trotting to take their guests to their destination.  I had my first good feeling of history that our visit would be promising.

This building was a rare example of a mix between a legislative place combined with a market that extended from the square to the basement of the building.

From the late 1800s to the beginning of the 1900s the second floor  was used as an Opera House.

The 3-story red brick with the clock tower on its middle was built in 1875-76.  The clock still needs to be manually wound every day. Nice way to start your visit.

Phoenix Square

397 Queen Street

It is on Phoenix Square that you will find the City Hall.  

In a charming perfectly sized fountain for the square sits a known star for more than a century, “Freddy the Nude Dude”, a tiny white winged golden angel holding the end of a pipe. Installed originally in 1885, the cherub was stolen, recovered in pieces, “reassembled” and copied. The original is now protected behind glass inside the city hall while a twin confronts the seasonal weather changes.

Until 1952, the square was the gathering location and a market for producers and resellers. If my reading is accurate, the square was a gathering place before the City Hall.

Justice Buildings

427 Queen Street

Next to Phoenix Square is the current Court of Appeal, Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court which are subject to move soon to a newly constructed building. The city’s main spot was home to various occupations but has been the justice building since 1975. It is not clearly indicated but there is a museum in this building, the School Day Museum.  The museum traces back the image of teaching and presents a typical classroom when this building was used by the New Brunswick Teacher’s College from 1947 to 1960.

The 1827 building is in the same area as the Garrison complex.  A smaller building was sitting here for the Military hospital. It became the Provincial Normal School in 1875. A major fire destroyed a big portion of the building in 1929 but it was rebuilt saving as much as possible which includes the front columns. It remained an educational place for years until 1975 when it became the Justice Courts.

The triple arch entrance and the pink pillars attracted my attention and are originals.

New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame Museum

503 Queen Street

If you look at the red brick multi-story building erected on 503 Queen Street, you will suspect its construction was not recent. Indeed, the 1881 building originally housed the Post Office and the Customs House. It became a public library and National Exhibit Center later on but today it is a museum.

The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame Museum has been open since 1996 to inspire the younger generation of athletes to surpass themselves. It commemorates the teams, leader/coaches and successful local players via videos and references. There is also a visual and hands-on sports interface.

York County Courthouse

649 Queen Street

On the same street as the main Justice Court, sits another courthouse. Converted over the years, the 1857 red brick again is now a restaurant on the main first floor, Isaac’s Way. The second floor is rented for the Natural Trust of New Brunswick which defends the environment and biodiversity of the province.

Lettering above the main entrance still indicates York County.

Playhouse

686 Queen Street

The province was granted the first art scene of this magnitude in 1964. A 709 seat location for artistic live performance  was well received. The 1964 Playhouse is a gift from Lady and Lord Beaverbrook, a wealthy politician and wife who also worked in Britain.

Adjacent to the Provincial Complex, on Queen Street, it is centrally located to host shows.

New Brunswick Legislative Building

706 Queen Street

In Canada, the legislative buildings are named as is or rebaptized parliament. Every provincial capital has one or the other. In New Brunswick, it refers to a Legislative building and here we can consider it as a complex since it is more than a single building.  The central building opened in 1882 after the original one burned down in 1877.  The actual oldest structure is the 1st floor of the east building also referred to as the Old Education Building which dates back to 1816 but was redesigned in 1869. The west wing is the departmental building.

The Green

Parallel to Queen Street for a while the 5KM riverfront pathway links to other trails and provides beautiful views of the water and access to main attractions.

Benches are also available for breaks.

Fredericton Cenotaph

The monument was dedicated to the ones (109 Fredericton soldiers) who lost their lives in WWI combat and is at the junction of Waterloo and King Streets.

Of course, a special thought is also for the ones who gave their lives in the service of the country.

Garrison District / Fredericton Military Compound National Historic Site of Canada

On the main street of Fredericton, a section is referred to Garrison District for its strong military history in the city. The district covers the area on Queen Street between York and Regent Streets.

It grouped buildings to accommodate, support and train the soldiers stationed at this location from the British Army between 1785-1869 and the Canadian Army from 1883 to 1914.

Today, only 4 buildings from an estimated total of fifty constructions still exist: the Soldiers’ Barracks, the Guard House, the Officers’ Quarters and the Militia Arms Store. Many were destroyed by the 1825 fire.

Military training in Canada was concentrated at three locations: Fredericton (New Brunswick), Toronto (Ontario) and Saint-Jean (Quebec).

Officer’s Square

575 Queen Street

The Officer’s Square has been bursting with energy for centuries now.  It was the center for military demonstrations but has become a summer concert place, a market, a viewing outdoor theater, an entertainment and recreation center. It used to have an ice rink for skating, and land tennis. Curling and cricket also took place on this square.

The square is also associated with the first steps of a long journey that the 104th regiment took in February 1813, a 52-day journey via Quebec to reach Kingston, Ontario, 1128 kilometers (700 miles) away to support the troops. We can strongly believe that during their walk during this period of the year, they had to face very cold, snowy, wet weather conditions.

Officer’s Quarters / Fredericton Region Museum (1st building)

571 Queen Street

Facing the Officer’s Square, what used to be the Officer’s Quarters, is now Fredericton Region Museum.

It is not the original British Garrison Officer’s Quarters. The true original 1786 wood structure was replaced by the current stone version in 1853.

Not open on Sunday and Monday, I did not visit the museum and I can’t confirm the subjects but reference to Aboriginal, Acadian and Loyalists exhibits have been indicated.

However, the story of the legendary Coleman Frog is explained in this museum.  It is unclear if it is an imaginary story but it dates back to 1959.  In nearby Fredericton, a man named Fred Coleman fed a large sized frog that gained so much weight it became a massive 42-pound unique specimen. The huge mascot, nicknamed Coleman Frog, is displayed in the museum. However, all requests for DNA testing are being denied, thus the questioning.

Soldiers Barracks (2nd Building)

463 Queen Street

Despite its address, the imposing structure turns its back to Queen Street. Constructed in 1827, the 2 and a half story stone structure was strongly erected by the British army to accommodate 200 soldiers.  With minimal furniture, 19 iron beds were installed in each room.

The Guard House (3rd Building)

15 Carleton Street

The military complex is most likely to have a dedicated security section and Fredericton Garrison was no exception. Erected in 1828, the Guard House was a prison, an orderly room and a guard room.  Originally, the 7 cell prison was reconfigured to a 5 cell plus an isolation room in a basement pit. 

Militia Arms Store / Fredericton Tourism office (4th building)

11 Carleton Street

Out of the four remaining buildings, it is the only structure made of wood. Built in 1832 to hold the weapon and ammunition for the Garrison. An annex was added in 1882 and used as the Military Hospital. For some time, it was also a liquor warehouse.

Currently, it is the administration office for Fredericton Tourism

703 Queen Street

A wealthy resident with dual nationality with the British, Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) and his wife, have given back to the province.  Born in Ontario, his family moved to the province where he studied, issued his first journal and during which he connected with politics.

Despite his frequent presence in England, he is fond of the province and Fredericton. In 1958, he created a museum for the Provincial Art Gallery known as Beaverbrook Art Gallery where the art and visual culture of New Brunswick and Atlantic are presented.  He is also behind the creation of the playhouse.

Since June 2020, the gallery was still closed in August 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

St-Paul’s United Church

224 York Street

The story of this place began when members of the Presbyterian community met in 1829 to find a meeting place but it was only in 1886 that St-Paul’s United Church celebrated its first mass.  It was in 1925, more than a decade after the first presentation that the union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches was confirmed under the United Church.

The mix of architectural influence includes a French Rose Window in High Victorian Gothic Revival style that was perceived as an openness to other than British design. The 3-floor design with an elevator allows for 1000 attendees, which is more than the playhouse, and consequently, a place of choice for events and concerts.

Christ Church Cathedral

150 Church Street

From the first stone laid, it took 8 years to complete Christ Church Cathedral. The first service was held in August of 1853. A fire caused by lightning in 1911 destroyed the choir area when the bells melted and fell. In 2006, the bell tower and choir area were again damaged by fire.

The cathedral is keeping behind closed doors the original letters of Queen Victoria appointing Rev. John Medley as Bishop of Fredericton. He is the one behind the choice of building this cathedral. Also safely guarded is a Royal Bible presented by Albert, Prince of Wales before becoming King Edward VIII in the early 20th century.

Wilmot United Church

473 King Street

Built during the same period as the Christ Church Cathedral, the 1851-52 religious construction was originally known as Fredericton Methodist Church. The name was changed in 1925 in honor of the first lieutenant governor of the province, Judge Lemuel Allan Milmot. 

The gothic white church with its 800 seating capacity has a very unique piece of art that was once part of the exterior architecture of the building.  Rising at the top of the tall steeple was a 7-foot carved human hand with the index finger pointing to the sky. The hand was sculptured in a single piece of white pine wood. Over the years, the climate affected its condition and It was removed from the tall steeple of the construction. It is now showcased inside the church.

Brunswick Street Church

161 York Street

Following a fire in the original structure, the purple-blue freestone used for this construction has been extracted from local soil. The 1882 construction offers an asymmetrical design with a rose window and a single middle entrance door.

796 Queen Street

The oldest private art gallery in New Brunswick that presents a beautiful art collection in an elegant Queen Anne Revival style home.