The city of Moncton is surprising. The largest city in New Brunswick, with a history dating back to the Mi’kmaq and French colonisations, has very little indication of its past and has a deficiency on tourist activity options within the city. In downtown, murals and public art have been created and installed here and there for you to discover and the riverfront walk is agreeable for a promenade.
The tourism offerings are limited and are mostly developed under man-made attractions around Magnetic Hill. Magnetic Hill has been an attraction for years and it is now surrounded by different infrastructures which include a zoo, an aqua park (Magic Mountain), a shopping area, a winery and a casino nearby.
Inevitably, a visit to Moncton means a stop at the special optical illusion phenomenon of Magnetic Hill. On a small street, you tend to believe you are being pulled uphill while you are going downhill, thus naming it Magnetic Hill. While it might be evident to many, I’m confused and while experiencing it, it does not seem to make sense. Still, for a few dollars, you can experience the “magic” of going uphill. You simply drive your car to the indicated post, you put your car in neutral and your car will move like you’re going uphill to a maximum speed of about 20km/h.
Within about an hour’s walk around town, you can find most of the buildings that represent interesting moments in the history of Moncton.
Treitz Haus (1769) 10 Bendview Court – Link to the early settlement, the Treitz family built a house at this address in 1769. The style and material used make us trust in the participation of other communities in the area. It is now the Visitor Information Center and it is located next to Bore Park.
Free Meeting House (1821) 20 Mountain Road – At the time of settlement, different communities set foot on the new land. They commonly joined their forces to build a meeting place to share before gathering sufficient funds to build their respective religious infrastructures. It is a beautiful example of cooperation, respect and spirit among multi-religions including sharing chores and construction while building and occupying this simply designed building. A graveyard is next to the house which is the oldest in the area.
Bell Aliant Tower (1971) This dominant concrete tower rises in the sky of downtown Moncton. It replaces a steel shorter version threatened by upcoming nearby high-rise constructions that would block microwave communication signals. The original company behind this tower is NBtel (New Brunswick Telephone Company) that believed in the installation of the tallest communication tower in the province. In fact, it was the tallest free-standing tower in North America at the time of construction at 127 meters high (417 ft). Its location is also significant. It is sitting where the original first telephone exchange existed in Moncton in 1883. Note that the tower is not open to the public.
Masonic Hall / Masonic Temple (1924) 115 Queen Street – Built on a land donated by Alexander Keith, the famous brewer, the Masonic Club is a private fraternal group that encourages sharing knowledge and is a networking place. The hall is the place to meet for social events, dining and more. Its design is distinctive and follows the interior plan rules of the club. The second floor was added after a fire.
St. Bernard Church and Rectory (1914-1915) 43 Botsford Street – The Good Shepherd with three sheep is a rare feature displayed above a church portico.
William Torrie House (1860-70) 48 Bonaccord Street – Mr. Torrie had success with his soap and candle manufacturing company in the region. His house is an example of Second Empire architecture. The house has changed hands over the years and has been a hotel for a while. Mr. Torrie is also behind the street name since the land was under conflict ownership with a business partner. Bonaccord is derived from Bon Accord which means Good Agreement. The first female graduate of Dalhousie University, Ms. Ethel “Queenie” Murphy, a long-time noted educator, also lived under this roof.
Peters House (1905) 35 Highfield Street – Mr. Alfred Peters was specialized in the Combination Lock Factory. In 1920, the residence was sold to YMCA.
Flat Iron Building (1917) 897-899 Main Street and Subway Block (1918) 885-889 Main Street – both buildings were erected to improve the sights of the city viewed from the nearby train passengers.
Albion Block (1891) 844-852 Main Street – Built for the administration office of a coal company.
Transcript building (1900) 828 Main Street – This structure is recognized for its role in the development of journalism in the city.
Bank of Montreal Building (1876) 567-569 Main Street – The BMO was the 1st major bank to set a branch in Moncton. They occupied this building until 1891. The selection of Moncton by the bank was an immense pride to the citizens as they believed in the growth of their city and a major bank was the proof of its potential. The bank moved location within Moncton, and L’Evangiline, a French newspaper, was printed here for 30 years.
The Capitol (1926) 811 Main street – Sitting where the previous theater was destroyed by fire, the 800 seating capacity is again a theater after it was converted into a cinema a few years later.
Dr. Myers office and residence (1904) 15 Alma Street – A few steps off Main Street, you can find Dr. Ambrose R. Myers’ office and residence, a Neoclassical style where he operated a medical office. He was married to Wilhemina McSweeney. Their son, Ralph, also a doctor, practiced here for a total of 90 years combined. Look at the details near the roofline, a beautiful structure.
Royal Bank Building (1899) 713-721 Main Street – The corner pink Sackville quarry sandstone Romanesque Revival building was originally constructed for the Merchants Bank which later, in 1901, changed its name to the Royal Bank.
McSweeney Building (1901) 700 Main Street – This construction is associated with economic development as the first department store in Moncton.
Provincial Bank Building (1910) 696-698 Main Street – The Provincial Bank established in Quebec (Edifice Aldred in Montreal) selected Moncton for a headquarters in the Maritimes. It is at this address and until 1973 that a bank occupied this building on the main street. It was the 5th bank to open its doors in the city but offers a unique service, a bilingual French and English service. Documents, signs and staff were able to support the clientele in both languages. The Provincial Bank became the National Bank of Canada later.
Thomas Williams House (1883) 103 Park Street – Mr. Williams was a leading citizen who worked for a train company during the rail industry boom.
Aberdeen Cultural Center (1916) 140 Botsford Street – The first high school in Moncton, it was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous 1898 building. Artists joined to transform this place into a cultural and art center.
Lutz Mountain Heritage Museum (1883) 3143 Mountain Road – Within the walls of the Second Baptist Church, the museum exhibits artifacts of the community and the early pioneers. It is also a place to do some genealogy family research that dates back before the 20th century.
Most constructions above have been classified for their unique architecture in the region and are often related to prosperous citizens of the region. Moncton economic developments have been marked by the manufacturing of shipbuilding and trains. Exhibits at the Resugo Center are focused on multiple different modes of transportation.
The Mi’kmaq and French colonists expropriated to give way to the British colonists in the region. Some French Acadian people have returned in sufficient numbers to now represent a third of the current Moncton population. To know more about the residents visit the Acadian Museum.
Despite the limited activities available in the city, Moncton can be a good centralized hub to stay in while exploring the Maritimes. Here is a list of the day-trip possibilities while staying in Moncton:
- Hopewell Rocks, NB is about 30 minutes.
- Fundy National Park, NB (Alma) is 1 hour
- National Park Kouchibouguac, NB 1h10
- Joggings Fossils, NS 1h10
- Miramichi, NB 1h35
- Saint John, NB 1h35
- Fredericton, NB is 2 hours away by car
- Charlottetown, PEI 2 hours
- Halifax, NS 3 hours
The estimated times indicated above are by car, one way and of course, can differ according to road constructions, conditions and season. It is only for consideration when you build your itinerary for your next trip to New Brunswick.