Born in 1859 in Hopewell, John Peck came from a family of established lumbermen. In his mid-teens, he was already accumulating lumber stockpiles, chartering ships, and arranging buyers in Saint John and Boston, Massachusetts. His entrepreneurial spirit caught the attention of his maternal grandfather, The Honourable John Lewis. In 1881, at the age of 23, John Peck relocated to Hillsborough and purchased his grandfather’s store business and the John Peck House.
In 1897, Peck established his own bank in Hillsborough. By 1901, he was the principal owner of the Prince William Hotel, built in anticipation of a surge in tourism. He acquired a hardwood flooring mill and, in 1906, added a new window sash and door factory. Peck also owned the local newspaper, The Albert Journal, and in 1911, secured the contract to construct the current Hillsborough Baptist Church. His diverse business ventures thrived during the First World War.
Between 1917 and 1925, Peck was elected to the Provincial Legislature four times. In 1919, he moved into his impressive new home, hosting a housewarming party that lasted two weeks. Overnight guests who couldn’t stay in the house were offered accommodations at the Prince William Hotel.
However, the First World War brought both fortune and tragedy to John L. Peck. He and his wife Minnie (Bishop) lost their only son, Lieutenant George Peck, who was killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917. In memory of his son and others who served, Peck constructed the Peck Memorial Hall at 2820 Main Street in 1921. He financed the building himself and gifted it to the people of Albert County as a lasting war memorial.
J. L. Peck passed away in 1927. In 1928 the J. L. Peck Bank died as well. On the brink of the Great Depression, the rest of the Peck Business Empire soon followed the bank into receivership. This stately mansion, and for some a lingering sense of financial betrayal, are all that remain of the man, his business and the era that spawned them.
From the brow of an elevation, this residence looks down on the village with a superior air more suited to an eighteenth century European castle than an irregularly massed, two-and-a-half storey, wood-framed dwelling in New Brunswick. This lofty impression did not occur by accident; when constructed in 1919 John Lewis Peck was at the height of his business and political career. This richly scalped Queen Anne Revival residence with a tower, a columned veranda and balcony was designed by René-Arthur Fréchet, the foremost architect in eastern Canada at the time, to be a flattering backdrop for the First Family of Hillsborough.
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I lived in this house for four years in the late 60’s. What a house to play hide and seek! Ball hockey games in the main livingroom too I do recall. A child’s dream! My bedroom was in the “round room” at the front on the main level. I remember a friend fell out of the crows nest in the turret one time and sprained their arm. Oh the memories!