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Saint John, New Brunswick
LOCAL STORIES

The article below was taken from the New Brunswick Reader, April 18/98

Chubbs Corner, Saint John

   The original Chubbs building had stood on the northwest corner of Prince William and Princess streets in Saint John since the early 1840s. The pre-fire Chubbs Corner included a "newsroom - actually a reading room on the second floor which was well-stocked with recent newspapers from England. There was a bulletin board where the recent foreign news was posted. It attracted a stream of people eager to learn of events in far-off lands.

   The business of the city was shipping and most businesses and a ferry terminal were nearby, and according to one account, "only an eighth part of a mile from where liquid refreshment of a most excellent character abounded." It was truly the centre of the city.

   Chubbs Corner was rebuilt after the Great Fire. But it re-opened to mixed reviews because of its most prominent architectural feature. The Daily Sun said the building "has, we think, been highly disfigured by these meaningless heads, which stand boldly out in all their ugliness. They are not good enough to be called grotesque, but even in a building of Gothic design they would add no adornment. If this building has any particular style, it is certainly more classic than any other, and instead of being outraged in this way, the heads should have been modelled in a true classic feeling; but perhaps the worker who cut them (they can hardly be called carved, for the execution is bad,) had no feeling in him whatsoever, and. we trust that more of our public buildings will be adorned by such buffoonery from his hands."

    We don't know whether the Sun reporter in any way resembled any of the gargoyles.

   Legend has it the figures represent judges at the time who had a boy hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. There is no evidence for this.

   The 16 heads that aroused so much controversy probably represent colourful characters and leading citizens of the day, including George Chubb himself, a prominent publisher; Mayor Sylvester A. Earle, a medical doctor; and Silas Alward, a leading lawyer, who is wearing a bowler hat.

   They reportedly were carved by James McAvity, who was born in Portland in 1845 and became one of the finest stonecutters in Canada. His work also adorns the old Bank of Nova Scotia (Palatine) building (which is noted for a head spitting out coins), the old Post Office in Saint John, as well as the Legislative Building and City Hall in Fredericton.

   H. Claire Mott, a well known architect in Saint John for more than 50 years, recalled his father's impression that the heads were carved by "two poor devils hanging over the side of the building in bosun's slings in bitter cold weather for 60 cents a day.

- Reader staff

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