Senator James Dever Residence – Saint John

Senator James Dever Residence

Senator James Dever Residence – Saint John

Built around 1850, the Senator James Dever Residence is one of three pre-fire brick buildings situated on Chipman Hill in Saint John. The residence is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture, its survival against two near-loss incidents (fire and urban renewal), and its connection to early occupant Senator James Dever.

Senator James Dever Residenc

This property is part of a trio of Neo-Classical brick townhouses that extend from Union Street to King Street in one of Saint John’s oldest neighborhoods. The building was on the edge of the area devastated by the Great Fire of 1877. Efforts to save it and its two neighboring properties halted the fire and prevented it from spreading to Union Street. Nearby buildings on the street and King Street were demolished during Saint John’s urban renewal program. The group of three pre-fire brick residential buildings at the top of Chipman Hill were also slated for demolition, but community action led to their preservation.

The simple, symmetrical style of these three older Neo-Classical brick buildings offers a striking contrast to the more elaborate late-Victorian styles seen in the adjacent post-fire district. The Senator Dever Residence and its two adjacent buildings feature a steep side-gable with no roof overhang. Apart from the entrance, ornamentation is minimal, including a thin row of dentils at the roof-line cornice and quoins along the exterior wall edges. The entrance is the home’s most notable feature, with its exquisite hand-carved door, sidelights, and transom. Ionic columns support a pedimented entablature above the entrance. The ashlar masonry foundation that descends with Chipman Hill’s grade also contributes to the building’s heritage value.

Ward Chipman
Ward Chipman

The lots on which this home and its neighboring houses stand were once part of the Ward Chipman estate. Ward Chipman, a prominent lawyer and politician in early Saint John, lends his name to the street, though his own grand residence on the opposite side of Union Street was demolished to make way for the Carnegie Library and the YMCA. The construction date of the three Chipman Hill properties remains uncertain, but it is likely they were built before Ward Chipman sold the land in 1853 to grocer Robert Armstrong and his brother-in-law Aaron Hastings. The lots were already divided on city maps prior to the sale, with the sale price being high for land alone. The buildings’ style aligns with an early construction date.

Senator James Dever resided in this home from the early 1870s until his passing in 1904, while his widow continued to live here for many years afterward. Born in Bellyshannon, Ireland, in 1825, Dever arrived in Saint John as a child with his parents and received his education there. He worked in various clerkships in general stores before establishing a wholesale wine and spirit business, amassing significant property in the process. Dever retired from his business endeavors soon after the Fire of 1877.

James Dever
James Dever

James Dever was involved in politics even before Confederation. Soon after Canada became a Dominion, he was appointed to the Senate as a representative of the Saint John District and the Roman Catholic denomination, since there were no members of that church among the 12 senators from New Brunswick. Dever was called to the Senate in 1868 and had been an observer of the historic session in 1867. He attended every session until his death in 1904. His 36 consecutive years in the Senate stand as the longest tenure served by a Saint John representative and the third-longest tenure among all New Brunswick senators.

 

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