Old Government House

Old Government House

Originally, the first public building in Fredericton, known as the Governor’s House, was not considered a public building. Governor Carleton initially resided and convened his council at the British American Coffee House during his visits to Fredericton. It is widely believed that Fredericton’s first House of Assembly meeting took place in this building. 

British-American Coffee House
British-American Coffee House
Residence of Thomas Carleton
Residence of Thomas Carleton, first Governor of NB in Fredericton. Partially destroyed by fire in 1815, and then torn down. (New Brunswick Museum, Webster Collection)

In the spring of 1787, Carleton moved into his newly built residence, locally referred to as the Governor’s Mansion House. The building was constructed by Van der Beck and Ackerman and financed by Carleton himself, making it a private rather than a public building. The house was situated on land purchased by Carleton from Benjamin Atherton in 1785.

Old Government House 1910
Old Government House 1910

In 1816, the New Brunswick Government acquired the house and the 50-acre property between Woodstock Road and the river from Carleton for £3,500. They paid an additional £250 to the College of NB to release the property from the lease. The government planned to use the property as the official residence for future Lieutenant-Governors. Carleton had already returned to England, leaving General Martin Hunter to represent him as “President of the Province.”

The Hunters resided in the mansion until Major General George Stracey Smyth became the second Lieutenant Governor in 1817. Smyth was a widower, having lost his wife in Halifax in July.

Old Government House
On March 7, 1826, the legislature approved the construction of a new government house designed by John E. Woolford, the Garrison Barrack Master. Sir Howard Douglas laid the cornerstone on July 1, 1826, and construction continued until 1828. The building played a central role in the province’s social and political life until the 1890s, hosting state dinners, balls, parties, and 14 Lieutenant-Governors.

Interior Old Government House

In 1890, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Leonard Tilley refused to live at Government House due to the absence of a maintenance budget, leading to the building’s closure. Over the years, it would be periodically unoccupied, serve as a Deaf and Dumb Institute, function as a military hospital for veterans, and house the RCMP “J” Division headquarters from 1932 to 1990. A restoration project supported by all three levels of government took place in the late 1990s, and since 1999, Government House has once again served as the Lieutenant-Governor’s residence.

Old Government House

 

Old Government House
Rear of Old Government House

Click on a thumbnail to see more photos of the interior. 

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2 thoughts on “Old Government House

  1. “The Hunters occupied the mansion house until Major General George Stracey Smyth became the second Lieutenant Governor in 1917. Smyth had no family his wife having died at Halifax in July.”
    Should this not be 1817 when writing about Smyth?

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