New Brunswick

J.D. Irving-owned Brown House in Saint John reduced to rubble

Demolition of a former heritage building owned by J. D. Irving Ltd. took place in uptown Saint John today. Known as the Brown House or Paikowsky Residence, the building's heritage designation was removed in August, something J. D. Irving had sought since 2016 in an effort to demolish the property. 

City agreed to allow demolition if building is replaced by park

An aerial view of a brown wooden house being demolished by an excavator. A cross section of the house can be seen as the excavator tears away at it.
Demolition of the building was allowed to go ahead after a heritage designation was lifted over the summer. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

A former heritage building owned by J. D. Irving Ltd. in uptown Saint John is now just a pile of rubble.

Known as the Brown House or the Paikowsky Residence, the building's heritage designation was removed in August, something J. D. Irving had sought since 2016 in an effort to demolish the property. 

The company has owned the building since the 1990s, but the six-unit apartment house has been vacant, boarded up and disconnected from the electrical grid since 2016.

After J. D. Irving made it clear the company had no intention of repairing the building, city staff reached an agreement to remove the heritage designation if a playground was built on the site on the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen Street.

The inside of a building being demolished, we see both floors and the excavator as it works its way through the rubble.
Prior to becoming vacant in 2016, J. D. Irving rented out apartments in the building. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

That agreement passed at council in a 5-4 vote in July. 

"It's not the ending we would have liked for any of our heritage buildings," Mayor Donna Reardon said of Monday's demolition. 

"But it is at the end of its story. And we'll have to just move on from there." 

WATCH | Saint John's Brown House gets demolished:

Demolition of Saint John’s Brown House begins

3 months ago
Duration 1:13
Owned by J.D Irving, the 82-year-old house on King Street East had been designated as a heritage property until last August.

On Monday morning, crews were seen using an excavator to tear down the walls of the house, with furniture and cabinetry still visible in some of the rooms.

How it got to this point

In 2016, J. D. Irving applied to demolish the building, proposing to build a parking lot and small park in its place, which was denied. 

In June, the city's heritage board again declined to remove the heritage designation despite a new pitch to replace the building with a park. 

A nighttime picture of the site where a house has been demolished, showing just a pile of boards and city lights.
A pile of boards and other rubble are all that was left of the Brown House by the end of the day Monday. (Lane Harrison/CBC)

But council agreed to remove the designation later in the summer, after staff found the city had no way to compel J. D. Irving to repair the property because it wasn't deemed unsafe. 

Reardon said the experience may be a learning opportunity for the city.

"Is there an after-action kind of review that maybe staff would look at and say, 'Were there any things along that road that we could have done differently? That would've had different outcomes?'" she said. Though Reardon said in this case, another outcome may not have been possible. 

Building example of Colonial Revival style

The building was constructed in 1941 in a distinct style, according to a heritage development board report from June. 

"Given the limited domestic residential construction during the early years of the Second World War, the Paikowsky Residence represents a rare, intact, and quintessential example of this unique simplified Colonial Revival style in Saint John," it said. 

J.D. Irving proposed to build a park in place of the demolished, former heritage building. (JD Irving/Submitted)

Reardon said the house was built during lean years. 

"And [Paikowsky] did it on King Street East. So it would have been a significant address at the time. And so just to see it come down now, it's kind of sad. I mean, it's not even really super old. But it is sad to see." 

John Allore spent his teen years in Saint John and noticed the demolition while in the city visiting family. 

He's followed the debate from the United States about the Brown House and had just explained the issue to his daughters the other day, before coming across the demolition Monday morning. 

A man wearing a blue puffer jacket and a red tartan scarf stands in front of the demolition, he's looking to the right of the frame off-camera.
John Allore spent his teens in Saint John and had been following the Brown House saga through social media from the United States, where he now lives. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

"I was like, 'Wow, they're there. They're actually doing it.'"

He said he's not on either side of the debate.

"I mean, it's a private property, the property owner can do what they want," he said.

"Saint John has an awful lot of lovely properties. You can't save them all though. I do shed a bit of a tear seeing more and more of them [demolished]."


Lane Harrison is a reporter for CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. You can reach him at


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