City Hall sits close to the mighty Saint John River. It begins in Quebec and Maine and flows for 673km, or 418 miles, until it empties into the Bay of Fundy. Many First Nations peoples have used the river for travel, trade, navigation, and sustenance for over 12,000 years. New settlers from Britain and the American Colonies similarly used the river over several hundred years. Today it is mostly recreational and highly prized by New Brunswickers.
"With the arrival of the Loyalists at St. Ann's Point in 1783, the river became a hub of activity. The river also helped shape the layout of the City of Fredericton. In 1827, an Act of the Legislature established eleven public landings along Fredericton's shoreline. In order to provide access to the public landings, Fredericton streets were extended to the river bank." (City of Fredericton).. In fact the City owns the riverbed land that meets the municipal boundary. In earlier days, passenger ferries from the north side of Fredericton would dock behind the present City Hall at what was known as Middle Ferry landing. By 1827, the ferry between Phoenix Square and the St Mary's ferry landing operated from sunrise to ten o'clock at night. It carried people, freight, carriages, wagons, and animals. A steam-powered ferry began work in 1842. When the highway bridge was finished in 1885, the little ferries were no longer needed.
City Hall dominates Phoenix Square. It's called phoenix because of the mythical phoenix bird that rose again from its ashes into a new life. So too has the Square revitalized itself. Many fires since the early 1800's destroyed the early commercial buildings and new ones sprang up in their place. Early City Hall days showed much commercial activity and many public events in the square. Scan through some more images to see the activity.
The present City Hall building was ready for use by 1876. It had a community market in the basement and the Council Chamber and offices on the first floor. But its main feature was the Opera House on the second floor. It held about 800 people and was the city's popular entertainment centre for over fifty years. Today, Fredericton's City Hall is a registered National Historic Site.
The clock in the City Hall tower is worth a look. It was built by a well known company in England and dates to 1878. It struck the bells for the first time in 1879. Then, almost 130 years later, the clock was sent away to be expertly restored. After almost a year it began ticking again in June of 2009. You may see its wonderful inner workings inside the City Hall front area and up the stairs by the Council Chamber.
In front of City Hall is the popular fountain, with Freddie, the 'nude dude'. Since 1885, many visitors have stopped by to say hi to Freddie and admire the fountain.
More info on St. John River (pdf)
More info on Phoenix Square (pdf)
More info on City Hall Clock (pdf)
City Hall, 2012
Fredericton Heritage Trust
Near Ferry Landing, North Side, 2012
Fredericton Heritage Trust
Market Square, ca. 1875
PANB George Taylor Fonds: P5 291
City Hall Market ca. 1890
PANB George Taylor Fonds: P5 343