The Count DeBury Residence is an excellent example of elaborate Second Empire residential architecture and is one of the finest homes in the City of Saint John. The home was damaged by fire in 1905 but the interior was soon restored. The home had 16 rooms when constructed. It has a typical Mansard roof and ornate bracketed cornices. Stone quoins are utilized throughout the front façade. Set high upon a hill, this building has been a corner landmark for over 125 years.
This home was built in 1875 for Count Robert Visart DeBury. Count Robert Visart DeBury was born in Bury, Belgium in 1848 where his family, part of the Belgian nobility, had possessed estates for five centuries.
Count DeBury graduated as a civil engineer at Wurttemberg School of Technology. In 1869, he married Miss Simonds of Saint John, daughter of H. G. Simonds, in Germany. The Count and Countess came to Saint John in 1873 and had this magnificent home built on Mr. Simonds’ land in 1875.
Count DeBury was Belgian Consul and French Vice Consul while in Saint John. His family played a prominent part in the wars of the 16th century in Belgium and, in the mid 1700’s, Colonel Francis Visart de Soleilleval was granted with the title of Count by the Empress Maria Theresa in recognition of his services in the wars at that time. Count DeBury’s great uncle was Field Marshall de Chasteler, who vanquished Napoleon’s army in 1809 and was later Governor of Venice. Robert himself was employed by the Orleans Railway Company and by the government of Wurtemberg in the survey of the Black Forest Railway. He lived partly in Saint John and lived part of his time in his home in Bury. His son, Lieutenant Colonel Count H. R. Visart DeBury is listed in “Prominent People in the Province of Quebec” by the Biographical Society of Canada for his outstanding military career. Their daughter was one of Saint John’s highly accomplished painters. In 1897, one of Miss DeBury’s paintings was given as a gift to St. Peter’s Church and was solemnly blessed by its clergymen. Countess DeBury died in 1906 and Count Robert DeBury died at a private hospital in 1907. Visart Street in Saint John’s north end was named in honour of Count Robert Visart DeBury.
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