The Frederick G. Spencer Residence at 41 Orange Street in Saint John is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture and for its association with its former occupants.
Built in 1914, the Frederick G. Spencer Residence is recognized for being a part of the building boom near the turn of the 20th century. The Great Saint John Fire of 1877 destroyed nearly the entire Central Peninsula of the City of Saint John and the commercial district of the city was quickly rebuilt. However, many of the residential lots were not immediately built upon due in part to residents building further away from the commercial districts and due to many residents deserting the city in need of immediate employment. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, these lots were being built upon in a feverish manner. This residence is a good example of Craftsman residential architecture from this delayed building period following the fire.
Built by William Kenneth Haley of Haley Brothers & Co., Spencer purchased and took up residence at this property in 1919.
Born and raised in Saint John, Spencer initially entered the tailoring business of his grandfather’s at the age of 16. Four years later, after marrying a young Saint John singer, Helen Craigle, his interest shifted to the entertainment industry.
He managed the Canadian concert tours of a number of famous performers including Madame Albani, Dame Nellie Melba, Lillian Nordica and several others. He soon became known as the leading impresario of Canada.
A few years following, he opened and operated one of Saint John’s earliest theatres located on Charlotte Street known as “The Unique”. This one theatre expanded to several across the Eastern coast of Canada. In 1945, his chain of theatres merged with the Famous Players Canadian Corporation.
Even outside of his illustrious career, Spencer proved to be a strong promoter of musical life in the City. He was one of the founders of the Community Concert Association and a patron of the Saint John Symphony and Orchestra.
Spencer was also involved in a number of philanthropic organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Salvation Army, the Old Ladies Home and the Y.M.C.A. In addition, he served on the board and was regent of Mount Allison University. In 1952, he was one of six individuals selected in the country to be honoured by the Canadian Picture Pioneers Association. At his death later that year, he was praised as one of Canada’s leading figures in the entertainment industry whose career spanned almost sixty years. Spencer resided at this address until 1938.
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