Saint John County Jail building stones deserve better, historian says
Each stone was supposed to be removed, catalogued and saved for use in the new court building
Earlier this month the City of Saint John turned down an invitation to buy the nearly 200-year-old county courthouse building overlooking King's Square and some now fear it may mean a chunk of the city's history may be lost.
The grand and imposing courthouse had overlooked King's Square since 1829 but 35 years ago it was nearly demolished along with another similar building, the Saint John County Jail.
At the time, the plan was to build a new justice complex. Each stone was supposed to be removed, catalogued and saved for use in the new building.
The planned justice complex wasn't built and in the decades since, what happened to those carved stones from the jail building is a mystery to most.
Last week, Coun. Bill Farren questioned whether anyone even knows where the carefully numbered stones are now located.
"The city has looked after them so well they can't find one of those huge stones," he said.
"Pretty dismal information, I think, that we can't even keep track of large three, four foot stones."
Farren argues the city is a terrible steward when it comes to looking after municipally owned heritage properties and artifacts.
Some of those stones are now a feature in the lobby of the new Saint John Law Courts building, but the vast majority of the carefully carved stones lead a less grand existence in a city-owned former dumpsite in Saint John's north end.
Harold Wright, a Saint John historian, said they deserve better than being spread over a half acre of ground.
"This stone, all this stone, this is a resource," he said.
Much of it is in a jumble, some half buried, others sit in a puddle. Wright said he is disappointed.
"I think the city has done a disservice to the community, the city, in terms of this resource has not been well taken care of," he said.
Wright said on an earlier visit decades ago he found the stones carefully arranged.
He said if there are no plans to care for them they should be put up for sale.