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Saint John New Brunswick

Inscription on the City Plaque at the Centre of the
OLD BURIAL GROUND

   Saint John's original burial ground was established on this site shortly after the landing of the United Empire Loyalists in 1783. After its closure as a cemetery in 1848 the site became a memorial garden with tree lined walkways and flower beds.

   For upwards of 100 years it remained a unique place of beauty in the centre of a busy industrial city. However, time and neglect gradually took their toll and by the late 1900's the burial ground was in a state of disrepair.

   In 1994 the Irving family undertook a restoration program as a gift to the people of Saint John. They commissioned and carried out a refurbishing of the entire site, including the construction of brick and granite walkways, benches, specially cast memorial gates, railings and light columns. Hundreds of trees and thousands of flowers and shrubs were planted and the magnificent Beaver Fountain was created.

   It was back in 1925 that K C. Irving established his first Saint John business on Union Street adjacent to the burial ground. For many years he looked out over this very site from his office in the Golden Ball Building.

   The Canadian Beaver, a prominent motif found throughout the site, depicts the hard work, enterprise and tenacious resolve of the city's founders and those who followed.

   The people of Saint John warmly thank the Irving family for restoring their pride in this historic site.

   Work on the site commenced in the Spring of 1994 and was completed the Summer of 1995. In words and pictures, this page tells the story of the Old Burial Grounds renewal.

   The design of the restoration project was created by international landscape architect Alex Novell, of the British firm, Novell Tullett. Alex Novell's work, as depicted in the grounds, reflects the old, the new, the past, the future.

The Main Gate

   One of the intriguing features of the Old Burial Ground is the perfect alignment of its centre pathway with the front gates of the Old City Market. Just as the City Market is a gathering place for people, so again will be the renovated burial ground.

   It is at this point on Sydney Street that five of the Old Burial Ground's primary paths branch out into the graveyard. Here, the main entrance gate to the burial ground has been erected. Those who enter will be able to select three different areas to visit: right gate leading to the area where the grave markers are concentrated; left gate leading to the flagpole and Irving Christmas Tree area; and centre gate to the fountain.

Wrought Iron Posts   The three gateways are topped by semi-circular arches resting on the wrought iron posts. A copper lantern hangs from each of the three arches. On the centre gate way there is a decorated pattern of wrought iron thistles and roses

   The granite paving at the front of the gates is based on an old European fan pattern and is found throughout the burial ground.



centerpiece Fountain

   In 1785 a coat of arms was chosen for the new City of Saint John. One of the symbols chosen for the newly created crest was the beaver. The beaver has come to symbolize the spirit of hard work and innovation and has been used as a recurring theme in the renovated Old Burial Ground.

Bronze Beaver centerpiece   As its centerpiece, the fountain features four bronze beavers building their lodge. The beavers are the work of world-renowned British sculptor Michael Rizzello, O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire). The wall of the fountain is made of dark granite from Quebec. The wall surrounding the fountain is granite quarried at Hampstead and cut in Sussex.




Grave Markers   During the restoration project, every measure was taken to treat the Old Burial Ground with respect. The repair program for grave markers and crypts was undertaken with great care. Where possible damaged stones were restored to match their original sandstone colour. Rusted iron brackets supporting many of the broken stones were replaced with brass fittings and then set in firm foundations.

   The monuments were restored using a conservationist approach. No attempt was made to repair or replace worn or broken engravings. In this way their historic appearance remains virtually unchanged.

   Near the gates a granite memorial stone was placed in memory of those buried here. The stone's bronze inscription reads:

Hope, Refuge, Solace and
Now - Eternal Peace

Markers

I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me. Write,
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth;
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours,
and their works do follow them.
Revelation 14:13, KJ V

Within these Burial Grounds lie the remains of
immigrants, rich and poor, who left their
homes and arrived on our shores filled with
courage and determination to establish for themselves
and their children a way of life free from
persecution and hostilities.

This site was chosen in 1783 by Loyalist
Settlers of Saint John as the location of their first
Church and Burial Ground.

Under the guidance of your hand, O'Lord,
They sought refuge and found solace on these shores.
May, they rest in peace
Knowing that their descendants now flourish.

   Trees are one of the cemetery's greatest assets. To ensure future generations will enjoy them, a professional arborist catalogued the trees and took measures to prolong their life. Where roots had become exposed over the years, they were covered with top soil and damaged limbs were repaired or removed to promote healthy growth.

   Dozens of mature native Canadian trees were planted in the burial ground to ensure sufficient shade for the future. These new trees included Red, Sugar and Silver Maples; Green and Mountain Ash; Marsh, Red and English Oak; Elm, Pine and Yew.

   The restoration's tree program included the identification of all new trees. Many of the site's special-interest trees have been identified with name plaques. Every tree in the burial ground was catalogued for age, species and health.

perennial geraniums

   Special attention was also paid to the Old Burial Ground's plants and flowers. Each year, the arrival of spring is marked by the colourful display of tulips. New beds of annual and perennial flowers, as well as shrubs, evergreens and hardwoods were planted to provide year-round colour and fragrance. These include roses, lilacs, impatiens, perennial geraniums (the official flower of Saint John) and many other early- and late-blooming flowers.

   The pathways through the burial ground are convenient for those walking in the uptown area. Special attention was given to restore these paths as both functional walkways and to complement the restoration.

Pathways of granite   The moulded bricks and granite edging were placed over a crushed stone, concrete and asphalt base. This flexible system was designed to allow the paths to rise and fall without harm from frost. Care was taken when the pathways were reconstructed to give better drainage to help prevent flooding and ice.

   Individual granite paving stones were laid in a low-maintenance design. Local stonemasons and bricklayers were trained to chip each stone by hand and then lay them to fit perfectly like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

   The lamps made for the Old Burial Ground are cast iron with copper lanterns. On the base of each lamp is a cast bronze beaver medallion and a City of Saint John coat of arms.

Litter Bins   The cast iron benches have durable hardwood seats selected to withstand our weather year-round and provide many years of use. Like the lamps, each bench is decorated with a beaver medallion. The words, City of Saint John, N.B., are cast into the arms.

   The burial ground's litter bins are heavy, cast-iron with black and gold trim. These also have the beaver medallion and the City of Saint John crest.

Granite Fountain   The Irving Christmas Tree in the Sydney Street corner of the Old Burial Ground is a Saint John holiday tradition. Often called the most beautiful Christmas Tree in Canada, the site for the New Brunswick Balsam Fir was enhanced during the restoration project. A new golden-ball-topped flag pole made in Saint John now occupies the site year-round except during the Christmas season.

   Other features include a granite drinking fountain, wrought iron railings and a new bus shelter on Sydney Street, all designed to complement the restoration. The new railings have an arrowhead top based on a century old Saint John design.

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