Extra Research for Season 5 – Episode 12 – The Lady of the House
Loyalist House, St. John, NB
The well-preserved example of 19th century United Empire Loyalist architecture in New Brunswick, known as Loyalist House, is found on the corner of Germain and Union Streets in Saint John, surrounded by modern apartment buildings.
The wealthy merchant David Merritt purchased the land, which at that time was just within city limits, in 1810 and began construction on the two-and-a-half-storey house. The house was completed in 1817 and became a well-loved home to nearly five generations of the Merritt family, who maintained the property and the house for almost 150 years without having to make many major alterations. This meant that in 1958, when the New Brunswick Historical Society purchased the house to turn it into a museum, the building was also granted status as a National Historical Site.
A glimpse into the past
The building is a fantastic example of the harmonious proportions and symmetrical construction most commonly known as New England Federalist style. Claimed to be the oldest structurally unaltered building in Saint John, Loyalist House was made of pine clapboard taken from the shores of the Upper Saint John River and features four chimneys towering above the roof.
In 1877, a fire ripped through Saint John burning nearly 80 hectares of land within city limits. Known as the Great Fire, the massive blaze destroyed 1612 structures $28 million dollars in damage. Miraculously, the Loyalist House survived the inferno virtually unscathed.
The house’s interior was very well maintained and remains as elegant as it was the day the Merritt family first moved in. It features Adamesque interior mouldings and woodwork showcasing carvings, deep mouldings, a curved staircase, and hidden curved doors in the entrance hallway.
Original furniture can also be found inside the house, including a still-functional 200-year old organ. Most of the furniture showcases the Sheraton, Empire and Duncan Phyfe patterns that were popular in the 19th century. In the kitchen the original fireplace implements are still in place, including an iron pressure cooker, dating back to 1795. A tall shingled carriage house with semi-circular fan light also remains on the site.
Fleeing the revolution
The Merritt family originally came from Rye, New York. But in 1783, along with approximately 6,000 other loyalists known as the Queen’s Rangers, they fled the American Revolution and landed in Parrtown, New Brunswick, located in roughly the same area as the modern south end of Saint John.
The Patriarch, Thomas Merritt, his wife Amy, and their seven children had a modest start, but quickly became one of the most prominent families in the area. It took their third son, David, seven years to build the Loyalist House, which is reportedly a family tradition – seven years for seven children. David, and his wife Mary, also had seven children.
– Jane Caulfield
Photo Credit: Loyalist House, St. John, New Brunswick