The trial for David Badrudin, a co-owner of the former Waterford Manor, got underway on Monday with an agreement between the Crown and defence.
Both sides agreed the now-demolished heritage property on Waterford Bridge Road in St. John's was destroyed by arson, saving the jury countless hours of testimony from fire investigators.
Instead, identity will be at the root of the trial at Supreme Court in St. John's — whether or not it was Badrudin who lit the fire.
Police and firefighters found four 20-litre gas cans "strategically" placed throughout the building, an agreed statement said.
No forensic evidence was found linking Badrudin to the fire, but the Crown intends to call witnesses who were at the manor around the time of the fire.
The building was designed in the early 1900s, and served as a home to influential families like the Bowrings, Cashins and Jobs.
It also operated as an orphanage, offices, and — when Badrudin's parents bought it in the 1990s — a bed and breakfast.
Firefighters fought the flames for more than 12 hours, trying to save whatever they could. The building was a total loss, and was demolished last year.
The jury was picked with haste on Monday morning. The largest courtroom in the city was packed with people wearing winter coats sitting shoulder-to-shoulder.
There was hardly time to break a sweat in the sweltering room, however, as Justice Garrett Handrigan picked 12 jurors within the first 20 people called to stand in front of him.
With the dense testimony negated by the statement of facts, Crown prosecutor Chris McCarthy said he expects the trial will last three days.
First witnesses will be called 10 a.m. on Tuesday.