John Peck was born in 1859 in Hopewell. His father and paternal grandfather were well established lumbermen. While still in his mid-teens John was assembling stock piles of lumber, chartering ships and arranging for buyers in Saint John and Boston, Massachusetts. Such enterprise did not go unnoticed by his maternal grandfather, The Honourable John Lewis.
In 1881, John Peck moved to Hillsborough and, although only twenty-three years old, bought his grandfather’s store business and his house. In 1897 he organized his own bank in Hillsborough. In 1901 he was the principle owner of the Prince William Hotel, built to serve an expected influx of tourists. He purchased a hardwood flooring mill and, in 1906, he added a new window sash and door factory. He owned the village newspaper, The Albert Journal. In 1911 he won the contract to build the present Hillsborough Baptist Church. The boom years of the First World War allowed John Peck’s many business concerns to prosper. Between 1917 and 1925 Mr. Peck was elected four times to the Provincial Legislature. In 1919 he moved to his spectacular new home. To describe the house warming as the social event of the year does not do the ceremony justice; the party lasted for two weeks. Overnight guests who could not be accommodated in the house were provided rooms at the Prince William Hotel.
While the First World War had brought riches to Mr. John L. Peck, it had also brought sorrow. He and his wife Minnie (Bishop) lost their only son, Lieut. George Peck, killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917. In 1921, Mr. Peck built the Peck Memorial Hall, located at 2820 Main Street, at his own expense and gave the building 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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