Born in Digby, Nova Scotia, on July 24, 1833, Archibald Drummond Fitz Randolph was a renowned businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He was the child of James Horton Fitz Randolph and Susan Byles Menzies. Some members of the Fitz Randolph family were known to abbreviate their surname, and thus he was frequently known as A. F. Randolph. In Saint John, on September 9, 1858, he wed Amira Donaldson Turnbull, who was the sister of William Wallace Turnbull. The couple was blessed with eight children, five of whom outlived their father. Archibald Drummond Fitz Randolph passed away on May 14, 1902, in Fredericton.
Fitz Randolph attended a grammar school in Digby for his education. At the tender age of 16, he initiated his professional journey at his father’s dry-goods shop. Subsequently, at 17, he started working as a clerk for a stove dealer in Saint John. He later moved to Fredericton and served as a clerk and bookkeeper for Abraham Tyler Coburn, a well-known lumber merchant. By 1855, Fitz Randolph had started his own retail store in Fredericton, dealing in hardware, dry goods, and groceries. Owing to his business acumen, enterprising attitude, and astute decision-making, his venture prospered. By 1878, he had branched out into the wholesale grocery business, primarily trading in West Indies goods and flour. He erected a sizable new edifice on Phoenix Square to accommodate the burgeoning business. His two sons joined the enterprise in 1883 and 1892, respectively, resulting in the renaming of the business as A. F. Randolph and Sons.
Fitz Randolph diversified into numerous businesses, including railway construction. When the Samuel Leonard Tilley administration passed a law in 1864 that provided subsidies for railway construction, Fitz Randolph and other Fredericton entrepreneurs leapt at the opportunity to establish connections with existing lines, boosting the capital’s commercial development. He held the position of treasurer at the Fredericton Railway Company, founded in 1866 to build a railway line linking Saint John and Maine. This project was completed in 1869. Fitz Randolph also associated himself with the New Brunswick Railway Company, established in 1870, which constructed a railway line running northward from St. Marys Parish (opposite Fredericton) to Woodstock and Edmundston, finished in 1880. In 1875, amidst the railway boom, Fitz Randolph and other entrepreneurs set up the Miller Flanger Manufacturing Company to manufacture railway cars and parts.
Not all of Fitz Randolph’s ventures were successful. In 1871, he became a stakeholder in the Fredericton and Saint Mary’s Bridge Company, responsible for building railway and road bridges from Fredericton to the northern side of the Saint John River. The company was unsuccessful in meeting its commitments and had to be reconstituted in 1882. The federal government, however, invalidated the statute incorporating the new company in 1883. It remains unknown whether Fitz Randolph had any involvement with the subsequent company, established by Premier Andrew George Blair in 1885. In the end, the company defaulted, and its assets were handed over to the federal government.
Fitz Randolph also ventured into the lumber sector. His involvement with the West End Mill in Fredericton lasted until a fire destroyed it in 1870. In the same year, he formed a partnership with Charles Parker Baker to establish Randolph and Baker, a lumber-milling and lime-kiln business situated in a location that would later be called Randolph (Saint John). Holding the position of director and serving as the president in 1875 of the Fredericton Boom Company, Fitz Randolph was among those who helped launch the Sheer Boom Improvement Company in 1879. The aim of this new venture was to build booms on the Saint John River above Grand Falls and on the Aroostook River.
Among Fitz Randolph’s diverse interests was the People’s Bank of New Brunswick, established in 1864 with a capital of $60,000. He was its inaugural president and maintained his leading role until his demise. Nonetheless, his family sold the bank to the Bank of Montreal in 1907. Fitz Randolph also played a significant role in the insurance industry, participating in the establishment of the New Brunswick Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1874 and the Keystone Fire Insurance Company of Saint John in 1889, even serving as president for a period. Furthermore, he had ties to the Fredericton Gas Light Company. Throughout his professional journey, Fitz Randolph collaborated with many esteemed businessmen and politicians, including his friend Alexander Gibson.
On May 25, 1882, Fitz Randolph was appointed to the Legislative Council. However, he relinquished this position in 1885 due to health issues and a growing disaffection with politics. He dismissed further political opportunities, opting to concentrate on his commercial endeavours. For instance, he declined to be nominated for Fredericton’s mayoral office in the 1889 municipal election by the Fredericton Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Fitz Randolph was a stalwart advocate of the Canada Temperance Act of 1878, routinely attending temperance meetings and often being the primary contributor to the funds raised. He would habitually challenge his business peers, especially Gibson, to match his financial commitments. His wife also actively participated in the temperance movement and was among the founding members of the Fredericton WCTU in 1886. Furthermore, Fitz Randolph was a founder and trustee of the Victoria Public Hospital in Fredericton.
For approximately three decades, Fitz Randolph was a steadfast supporter of the Brunswick Street Baptist Church, holding a position as a deacon for over 25 years. In 1883, he was one of the founders of the Baptist Annuity Association, which aimed to support Baptist ministers, widows, and children. He championed his faith at every opportunity, such as backing the publication of Reverend Ingraham Ebenezer Bill’s Fifty Years with the Baptist Ministers and Churches of the Maritime Provinces of Canada by buying copies and distributing them to friends. Even at large family picnics, “Uncle Archie” would encourage the younger members of the Fitz Randolph family to embrace the Baptist faith. His will included generous bequests to his denomination and its foreign and domestic missions.
Fitz Randolph also held a deep interest in education, particularly within the Baptist context. He chaired the Fredericton Board of School Trustees from 1872 to 1896 and played a part in founding the New Brunswick Baptist Education Society in 1883 and the Union Baptist Education Society in 1884. In 1877, following a destructive fire at the Acadia College and Horton Academy buildings in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Fitz Randolph, alongside Theodore Harding Rand, made substantial contributions to their rebuilding as benefactors from New Brunswick. He was later appointed to the board of governors for both institutions.
Fitz Randolph, who led a dynamic career in business, church, and community service, died in May 1902. A letter from his grandfather Joseph Fitz Randolph in 1848 had urged the young man to “be an ornament to society and the name of Randolph.” There’s no doubt that Archibald Drummond Fitz Randolph lived up to this.
From 1951 until 1980, the Randolph Building housed Fredericton’s newspaper, the Daily Gleaner. During the Gleaner’s occupancy, the old lead press plant was located at street level behind large plate glass windows, while the newsroom and composing rooms were situated on the second and third floors.
Distinct architectural elements of the Randolph Building include its remarkable cast iron facade at street level, the fierce dog-face grotesque figure protruding from the corner pilaster capital, and the towering corner turret adorned with wrought iron embellishments and a round dormer window, providing a graceful contrast to City Hall.
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