Two New Brunswick heritage sites in the running for $50K national prize

Stone Church in Saint John was built in 1822, making it the oldest church building in the city. (Submitted by Jasmine Chandra - image credit)
Stone Church in Saint John was built in 1822, making it the oldest church building in the city. (Submitted by Jasmine Chandra - image credit)

The Swallowtail lighthouse on Grand Manan and Stone Church in Saint John have made the top 10 list for the Next Great Save competition.

Organized by the National Trust of Canada, the winner will receive $50,000 to help refurbish or improve a noteworthy conservation project.

The winner will be selected through online voting.

Rev. Jasmine Chandra said Stone Church is a significant heritage site because it's one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire in Saint John in 1877.

Submitted by Jasmine Chandra
Submitted by Jasmine Chandra

"It's the oldest church building in our city," said Chandra. "Some of our heritage buildings have been torn down recently and Stone Church is looking to not have that happen."

The 200-year-old building, officially known as St. John's Church, got its name for being built of stone at a time when most buildings were made of wood.

Located on Carleton Street, It was built in 1822 with stone that was brought from England by ship.

It was deemed a national historic site in 1987 for being one of the earliest examples of a gothic revival church in the romantic phase, according to Canada's Historic Places.

Submitted by Jasmine Chandra
Submitted by Jasmine Chandra

Chandra said the church hall wing, which was added in the 1890s, has already been torn down because it was infested with mould.

"There was really no saving it … we found out there were lead pipes and other things that just meant it had to go," she said.

Chandra said the $50,000 prize would help with stabilization work, ongoing repairs to the church's tower and masonry work to its interior.

Submitted by Jasmine Chandra
Submitted by Jasmine Chandra

She said the money would help the church allocate more resources to finally get repairs looked after.

"We don't have a huge budget so when we're trying to serve the community, repairing the church gets put on the back burner," said Chandra.

Stone Church opened an emergency shelter last winter. It also offers free laundry service and weekly drop-ins for people who are homeless.

Submitted by Andrea Kelter
Submitted by Andrea Kelter

Andrea Kelter, manager of the Swallowtail lighthouse reception centre and gift shop, said the money would have a great impact on restoration efforts.

"The community loves their lighthouse," said Kelter. "Many families on the island can boast of a lightkeeper in their family history, and the lighthouse has been instrumental to the fishers."

At 55 feet in height, the lighthouse, on a peninsula surrounded by ocean, is anchored to rocks with cables and is accompanied by a lightkeeper's house and boathouse.

She said the lighthouse was built in 1860 in response to the sinking of the Lord Ashburton in 1857.

It welcomes more than 16,000 visitors over a span of 10 weeks each summer.

"It's a fantastic hike, a beautiful tour once you're in the lighthouse, and one of the most pleasant ways you can spend time on Grand Manan," said Kelter.

Submitted by Andrea Kelter
Submitted by Andrea Kelter

The money would help with a major restoration project, which will cost ultimately $500,000, to re-shingle the light tower and keeper's house with high-quality shingles that will last another 50 years.

Voting is open until Feb. 22

Allison Kerns, a spokesperson with National Trust Canada, said voting for the contest opened Friday and will continue until Feb. 22.

"It's very exciting. We've had over 400 votes in the first half hour," she said.

Kerns said 30 heritage sites applied and the top 10 were selected based on importance to their community, addressing community needs and climate crisis issues through their restoration projects.

"We're all super excited about the group of finalists that we've got," she said.

Kerns said the contest is in celebration of the Trust's 50th year anniversary and is sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance.