St. Mary’s Departmental Store, a two-storey brick building completed in 1905, sits prominently on a large corner lot at the intersection of Bowlen and Cliffe streets in Fredericton.
Charles and Sarah Thomas, who resided at 238 Waterloo Row (Somerville House), acquired property between June 1901 and April 1903 for their ambitious department store project, situated at the end of the Carleton Street bridge connecting north and south Fredericton. The store became known as “The Store At The End of The Bridge.”
Somerville HouseIn 1904, Charles H. Thomas, the store’s visionary, engaged local architect William E. Minue to draft the design plans. John Maxwell, a renowned local stone mason, completed the brickwork. This marked the second collaboration between Minue and Maxwell, who previously worked together on the Hartt Boot & Shoe Factory in 1899.
St. Mary’s Departmental Store officially opened its doors on May 5, 1905. The modern building housed over half a dozen departments, catering to a wide range of consumer needs. For $6,000, the owners acquired an impressive structure featuring large glass display windows on both street-facing sides, a spacious and elegant two-floor interior, an elevator, 12-foot high ceilings, and sophisticated countertops and display cases. Within a few years, customers benefited from a free parcel delivery service and a thrice-daily shuttle service from Queen St. to St. Mary’s Ferry Landing. The building symbolized progress and prosperity for the former village of St. Mary’s. Mr. Thomas envisioned a grand department store catering to residents of both St. Mary’s and Fredericton, and its location at the end of the bridge ensured a steady stream of customers.
Unfortunately, the store closed in December 1909. Fred S. Williams, the store’s new owner, continued operating a similar business at the location until May 1913.
In 1917, B. Franklin Smith leased the store space for his Florenceville-based produce business. He and his wife Catherine later purchased the entire building from the Thomas family, allowing various short-term rentals for local entrepreneurs. The Bank of Commerce rented part of the ground floor from 1918 until 2000
In 1929, the Saint John Valley Produce Exchange Limited bought the building. The second floor was rented to the Masonic Alexandria Lodge and the Devon Order of the Eastern Star. Royden E. Williams of Devon rented the rear section of the first floor for a small general store and personal living quarters. In 1935, the Masons purchased the entire building for $5,000. After the bank left the premises in 2000, the Masons assumed control of the ground floor area.
(This information came from Ted Jones’s research on this store. See also his article: Remembering the store at the end of the bridge. Daily Gleaner, December 4, 2004. p. B2.)
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