The city of Saint John’s rich history was put on display Friday at a national conference of architects.
Gary Hughes, the Curator of History and Technology with the New Brunswick Museum spoke of the Great Saint John Fire of 1877, one of the most destructive in the history of North America. Nearly 1,600 buildings were destroyed, 18 people died, and 200 acres of land was left desolate.
Hughes gave his presentation to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Festival of Architecture held in the port city this week.
He said the city was forced to renew itself after the fire.
“You’ve got sort of an instant city,” said Hughes. “That’s what I find interesting about it. It’s almost as if you’re stopped in time within a four or five year period.”
Greg Murdock, a Saint John-based architect, says he was given a chance to view the city in a different way on streets he walks each day.
“Seldom do you take the time to really stop and look at the richness of some of the architecture that’s here,” Murdock explained.
There is also the question of what Saint John would look like if the Great Fire never happened.
“It certainly would be different in terms of what we have now,” said Hughes “You wouldn’t get that sort of massive use of fire retardant materials because everybody said, ‘Well after that we don’t want to see this happen again.'”
Thankfully, it never has.