The William Vassie Residence at Mecklenburg Street in Saint John is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture, for its location and for its association with William Vassie and other residents significant in local history.
The William Vassie Residence is an excellent example of an urban Italianate Villa style. The principal feature is the central campanile tower. This style derives from the rural architecture of Northern Italy. The architecture of the Vassie home is characterized by its flat topped roof with moulded cornice and highly ornate denticulated and corbeled brick work. Typical of this style, the base of the slanting tower roof is interrupted by an oval arch which forms the header of the tower window. Also in keeping with the Italianate Villa style, the architectural features of this building form an asymmetrical arrangement with a bay window in one outer bay and the central window in the tower with a draping hood mould.
The William Vassie Residence is one of the prominent homes that make up the high-end character of the west end of Mecklenburg Street. The anchor for the area is Caverhill Hall, one of the city’s most outstanding landmark residences.
The William Vassie Residence follows the tone for the street with its fine architecture and as a residence for elite members of the city’s business community. Along with the other fine homes commemorated on Mecklenburg Street, these buildings illustrate a variety of styles and changing tastes for fashionable residences among Saint John’s elite business class.
This home was built for William and Jane Vassie who moved there from Charlotte Street. A birth was registered to them in Rothesay the previous year, so their town residence may not have been their only residence. Certainly, this fine building would have conveyed a message about their status. William’s father, John Vassie, of the dry goods firm Lawton and Vassie, was a native of Scotland and the family’s Scottish heritage is reflected in the sculptural elements of the sandstone capitals at the building’s entryway which feature a thistle motif.
Shortly after the Great Fire of 1877, John Vassie lost his partner, W. G. Lawton, in the wholesale dry goods business and went into business under the name John Vassie & Company. William Vassie joined the family firm. John Vassie & Company has been recognized in the City’s Jewish History for helping new Jewish immigrants earn a living in New Brunswick. A frequent traveler, William was reputed to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 52 times. As a highly respected man of business, Vassie consistently voiced his opinions regarding Canadian fiscal matters to both government and the press, including his strong advocacy of free trade.
The William Vassie Residence was later owned by Charles R. Wasson, a successful pharmacist who subsequently became the city’s wartime mayor. The subsequent owner was Patrick J. Hogan, who had a colourful career in the motion picture industry managing Paramount’s distribution company in Saint John, Paramount Film Services Ltd.
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