New Brunswick

Saint John Jellybean Houses torn down for new development

Eight hours after demolition began, Saint John's Jellybean Houses on Wellington Row are now nothing more than piles of rubble.

Private developers made last-ditch offers to buy the colourful, historic buildings

Jellybean houses torn down

6 years ago
Duration 0:27
A row of brightly coloured houses in Saint John were torn down on Saturday.

Eight hours after the first building began to be torn down, Saint John's Jellybean Houses on Wellington Row are nothing more than piles of rubble. 

The three historic buildings were demolished by the New Brunswick city after last-ditch efforts to save the buildings failed.

The city-owned buildings were approved for demolition in February after Saint John Non-Profit Housing, which had an option on the property, said it would be too expensive to include the buildings in a new apartment complex at the site.

Protesters who wanted the buildings to be saved from the wrecking ball stood and watched from across the street as they came down. Many approached the fenced-off area to get a closer look of the demolition. 

Earlier Saturday morning, members of the Saint John Police Force had to remove some protesters who made it inside the fenced-off demolition area. A vehicle had been parked against the back of one of the buildings in an effort to stop the demolition, but police told the owner it would be towed. 

Max Kotlowski, owner of the Reversing Falls Restaurant, was one of the protesters told by police to move.

He called the city's decision to tear down the buildings "pure foolishness" and "stupidity."

Some protestors also questioned why more wasn't done to salvage items from the buildings before they were destroyed. 

The president of Saint John's Non-Profit Housing told CBC News there were efforts made before demolition to save marble fireplaces and glass. Crews at the site were also saving some crown moulding.

'Sad day'

A woman takes a photo as the first of the three Jellybean Houses is demolished. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

 Kotlowski said it was a shame Saint John has lost the buildings which had a colourful history as well as exteriors. The Jellybean Houses survived the Great Fire of 1877 in Saint John and many consider the houses to be historically significant.

"I just think this is a sad day," he said.

He questioned the city's unwillingness to identify the buildings as an asset for the growing tourism sector.

"Now today we are harming our tourism, we're harming our growth. We're going in the opposite direction than we should be."

Kotlowski offered to buy the buildings for $100,000 on Friday night after finding out they were going to be demolished Saturday. 

"I would [have restored] the building and offer it as a tourist asset. That's what it was, a tourism asset." 

A week ago, property developer Andreas Holmes also offered to preserve the buildings and a community petition to spare the buildings gathered 1,000 signatures, but neither effort was ultimately successful.

Lori Seymour, a Saint John tour guide, said she was sad as she watched the demolition, calling it a crime scene.

"For our tourists that come in the future, we will no longer have the Jellybean Houses," said Seymour.

"We had the solutions, we had the private investors over the years. This is not a last-ditch effort to save the Jellybean Houses. A lot of questions need to be answered for this demolition today."

 'Tons of woodwork just waiting here'

Others, such as Marcus Kingston, came to the demolition hoping to salvage some of the woodwork from the houses. Those hopes were dashed when police told him he'd be arrested if he tried.

"That was unfortunate. As you can see, there is tons of woodwork just waiting here and that could have been salvaged by me and many of my friends," the Fredericton man said.

Kingston, who teaches art and has an interest in architecture, said watching the demolition was tough, especially knowing there were offers to buy it.

"This is the 150th anniversary of confederation and this building pre-dates confederation, so there's that. I think all of Saint John is going to hurt after this and it won't be the same."

With files from Matthew Bingley