Questions raised about future of historic Saint John courthouse
Questions are being raised about the future of the former Saint John County Courthouse, which has been sitting idle for two years.
The 190-year-old building is a national historic site, as well as a legal landmark in New Brunswick, and some say it tops the list of heritage buildings in a city that boasts hundreds of them.
“This has always been the most important, the number one heritage building in Saint John,” says historian Harold Wright.
He says the building became the focal point of public life shortly after it was built and became both a legal and municipal landmark.
“County council, city council chambers, it was the courthouse,” says Wright. “Some of the most famous trials Saint John has ever seen happened here. When you walk around Kings Square you can see every architectural style in our history, and it all starts with this building.”
No one is questioning the historic significance of the building, but no one is stepping up with the money to save it, including the City of Saint John. This month, council voted not to buy the building from the province.
“And also, it would cost us, I’d say, close to $3 million to make that building into office space that we can use,” says Coun. Shirley McAlary. “It’s not accessible for wheelchairs.”
But lawyer John Barry says a trust entered into by the mayor and council in 1826 means the city has an obligation to ensure the building’s preservation.
“Yes, you’ve got to find a new use for it. A new use, and if you find the proper use, you can approach government and get legislation to amend the trust,” says Barry.
He says the city and province both need to take another look at what can be done, legally, with the courthouse.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron