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Inscription on the City
Plaque at the Centre of the
OLD BURIAL GROUND
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
paving at the front of the gates is based on an old European fan pattern and is
found throughout the burial ground.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I heard a voice from
heaven, saying unto me. Write,
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their
and their works do follow them.
Revelation 14:13, KJ
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
They sought refuge and found solace on these shores.
they rest in peace
Knowing that their descendants now
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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