Old Government House

Old Government House

The first public building in Fredericton, the Governor’s House was not a public building at all. Governor Carleton at first lived and met his council in the British American Coffee House when he visited Fredericton. Council met there to receive applications and petitions. It has long been alleged that the first meeting of the House of Assembly held in Fredericton, took place in this building. 

British-American Coffee House c1900
British-American Coffee House c1900 PANB P14-4. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Misc. collection.
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)

Carlton occupied this new residence which was known locally as the Governor’s Mansion House, in the spring of 1787. This too, could not strictly be called a public building, because Carleton had employed Van der Beck and Ackerman to build it and he paid for it out of his own pocket. It sat on the Benjamin Atherton land which Carleton had bought in 1785.

Old Government House 1910
Old Government House 1910

In 1816, the New Brunswick Government bought the house and the fifty acres between Woodstock Road and the river from Carleton for 3500 pounds and paid another 250 pounds to the College of NB to free the property from the lease. The government intended to use the property as the official residence of future Lieutenant-Governors. Carleton had long since returned to England, leaving General Martin Hunter to act for him under the title “President of the Province”.

The Hunters occupied the mansion house until Major General George Stracey Smyth became the second Lieutenant Governor in 1817. Smyth had no family his wife having died at Halifax in July.

Old Government House
On March 7, 1826, an act of the legislature authorized construction of a new government house designed by John E. Woolford, the Barrack Master of the Garrison. Sir Howard Douglas laid the cornerstone on Saturday, July 1, 1826. Construction lasted from 1826 to 1828, and until the 1890’s, it played a central role in the social and political life of the province, hosting state dinners, balls and parties, as well as 14 Lieutenant–Governors. 

Interior Old Government House

After 1890, when Lieutenant–Governor Sir Leonard Tilley refused to continue living here due to the lack of a maintenance budget, the decision was made to close Government House. Subsequently, the building would periodically stand vacant, host a Deaf and Dumb Institute, act as a military hospital for veterans, and accommodate the RCMP “J” Division headquarters from 1932 until 1990. All three levels of Government supported a restoration of the structure in the late 1990’s, and since 1999 it has once again become the home of the Lieutenant–Governor.

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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