New Brunswick

Fate of 1820s stone building in Fredericton causes worry

The Risteen building on the corner of Queen and Smythe streets was one of the first cut stone buildings in the province and it could be torn down to make way for a new development.

Owner wants to put up new apartments on property in downtown Fredericton

The Risteen Sash and Door factory was established in the 1870s in one of the first stone cut buildings in New Brunswick. (Provincial Archives)

Concern is growing for an old stone building in downtown Fredericton, once the home of a thriving woodworking factory and now possibly headed for demolition.

The Risteen building at the corner of Queen and Smythe streets, the first cut stone building in New Brunswick, could be torn down to make way for a new development.

Gabriel Elzayat says he wants to put apartments on the property. 

The prospect saddens Carl Risteen, great-grandson of Joseph Risteen, who took the building over in the 1870s.

"This building here is the cornerstone basically of Queen Street, so it's the first house in Queen Street," Risteen said.

He still lives in the house that his great-grandfather built adjacent to the building.

The Risteen building was erected in the 1820s but Joseph Risteen turned it into a woodworking plant toward the end of the 19th century. (Jon Collicotte/CBC News)

"It would be a shame to see it gone," he said.

It was built in the 1820s by Anthony Lockwood, surveyor general of New Brunswick. When Joseph Risteen took it over, he created the Risteen Sash and Door factory.

"My great-grandfather bought the burned-out shell in about 1870 or thereabouts and fixed up the interior and built the big extension on the back — the big wooden part on the back — for his woodworking factory," Risteen said.

The products of that factory can still be found in the finishings and doorways of the New Brunswick Legislature, said Risteen.

Carl Risteen's great-grandfather created the Risteen Sash and Door factory. (Jon Collicott CBC News)

But the building itself may not last much longer. It's one of several buildings developer Elzayat has acquired on the block.

He said he's not sure whether the building will be torn down or salvaged, but he's open to ideas about incorporating it into his new development.

The city said it hasn't received an application for development yet, but tenants are already on the move.

Ross Davidson, whose kitchen supply shop has been in the building for decades, has been told to vacate by the end of February.

"We got a notice from our landlord that the property was going to be redeveloped and that was it," Davidson said.

Marcus Kingston wants to find a way to save the Risteen building in Fredericton. (Jon Collicott CBC News)

Some are worried about what the loss of the building will mean for the city's heritage.

Heritage enthusiast Marcus Kingston wants to find a way to save it.

"It's been sitting on the spot for … nearly 200 years and it deserves to stay," he said.

Despite its history, there's no heritage designation to protect the Risteen building, which means developers are free to do whatever they want with it.


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