The Legislature was built between 1880 and 1882 to replace Province House, which had burned on the site. It is built from New Brunswick stone brought up the river from Dorchester. Visitors arrive through the main doors of the Legislature, and in summer, you will be able to have a guided tour; we, however, were referred to the spiral staircase leading up to the next floor. The staircase is noteworthy: it is large, with three high-ceilinged stories, and freestanding. Made of walnut and ash, it was stabilized in 2004, and I guarantee that you will be impressed.
From the galleries, the visitor has a fine view of the Legislative Chamber. It was extensively restored about 15 years ago with new English carpeting, French wallpaper, and restored woodwork. The colour scheme is of muted green and yellow, an extremely handsome room. The height of the room is remarkable. I would guess it was upwards of 30 feet. The visitor in the gallery has an excellent view of the two great chandeliers that were originally gasoliers made in New York, each weighing between 660 and 800 pounds. One of them fell to the assembly floor in November 2002, but it has been repaired and remounted. The speaker’s chair and some of the other furniture in the room was rescued from Province House when it burned in 1880. The chair is flanked by the portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte, the monarchs at the time that New Brunswick came into being in 1784.
If you arrive during a session, you won’t be able to see the Council Chamber, which would be being used by the members. The Council Chamber was where the upper house of this legislature once sat, but the Council was dissolved in 1882. It is now used as a Legislative Committee Chamber and was fully restored to its original state in 1977. We couldn’t see it, but what we saw from the galleries of the Legislative Assembly was interesting. While a liberal member quizzed the minister responsible over the status of construction at the Acadian Village, other members read, played with their Blackberries, and chatted. The Minister of Health removed his shoes and put his feet up on the chair next to his. Frankly, if they had been in my classroom when I was teaching, a number of them would have ended up in detention.
I’ve been to legislatures from Baton Rouge to Santa Fe, and this isn’t the largest or the most ornate, but it is worth a visit.
Riverview, New Brunswick
May 29, 2005
From journal Fredericton: The City of Stately Elms