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J.D. Irving-owned Brown House in Saint John reduced to rubble

Demolition of the building was allowed to go ahead after a heritage designation was lifted over the summer. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
Demolition of the building was allowed to go ahead after a heritage designation was lifted over the summer. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

A former heritage building owned by J. D. Irving Ltd. in uptown Saint John is now just a pile of rubble.

Known as the Brown House or the Paikowsky Residence, the building's heritage designation was removed in August, something J. D. Irving had sought since 2016 in an effort to demolish the property.

The company has owned the building since the 1990s, but the six-unit apartment house has been vacant, boarded up and disconnected from the electrical grid since 2016.

After J. D. Irving made it clear the company had no intention of repairing the building, city staff reached an agreement to remove the heritage designation if a playground was built on the site on the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen Street.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

That agreement passed at council in a 5-4 vote in July.

"It's not the ending we would have liked for any of our heritage buildings," Mayor Donna Reardon said of Monday's demolition.

"But it is at the end of its story. And we'll have to just move on from there."

WATCH | Saint John's Brown House gets demolished:

On Monday morning, crews were seen using an excavator to tear down the walls of the house, with furniture and cabinetry still visible in some of the rooms.

How it got to this point

In 2016, J. D. Irving applied to demolish the building, proposing to build a parking lot and small park in its place, which was denied.

In June, the city's heritage board again declined to remove the heritage designation despite a new pitch to replace the building with a park.

Lane Harrison/CBC
Lane Harrison/CBC

But council agreed to remove the designation later in the summer, after staff found the city had no way to compel J. D. Irving to repair the property because it wasn't deemed unsafe.

Reardon said the experience may be a learning opportunity for the city.

"Is there an after-action kind of review that maybe staff would look at and say, 'Were there any things along that road that we could have done differently? That would've had different outcomes?'" she said. Though Reardon said in this case, another outcome may not have been possible.

Building example of Colonial Revival style

The building was constructed in 1941 in a distinct style, according to a heritage development board report from June.

"Given the limited domestic residential construction during the early years of the Second World War, the Paikowsky Residence represents a rare, intact, and quintessential example of this unique simplified Colonial Revival style in Saint John," it said.

JD Irving/Submitted
JD Irving/Submitted

Reardon said the house was built during lean years.

"And [Paikowsky] did it on King Street East. So it would have been a significant address at the time. And so just to see it come down now, it's kind of sad. I mean, it's not even really super old. But it is sad to see."

John Allore spent his teen years in Saint John and noticed the demolition while in the city visiting family.

He's followed the debate from the United States about the Brown House and had just explained the issue to his daughters the other day, before coming across the demolition Monday morning.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

"I was like, 'Wow, they're there. They're actually doing it.'"

He said he's not on either side of the debate.

"I mean, it's a private property, the property owner can do what they want," he said.

"Saint John has an awful lot of lovely properties. You can't save them all though. I do shed a bit of a tear seeing more and more of them [demolished]."