Ron Williams, author of Landscape Architecture in Canada, called King's Square of Saint John, New Brunswick, "one of the most memorable urban squares in Canada."  Ian Sclanders in his 1958 MacLeans article called it, "a monument-studded park." The square is both of these things - a lovely space where visitors can stroll and relax and also a site for taking in the province's rich history.
The square, established in 1785 and named for King George III, was created just one year after the province of New Brunswick was formed. Early uses included: oxen roasts, militia parades, cricket games, firework displays, public pillories, agricultural fairs and a slaughterhouse. In 1844, the square was developed as a park and its current design was implemented. Orthogonal and diagonal paths were laid out, reminiscent of the Union Jack. The paths meet in a central circle housing a fountain (built in 1851) and a two-storey bandstand (erected in 1908). 
Williams explained that the square fused two spacial archetypes typical of the 18th century together, namely the place and the square. The place was usually commercial in surroundings and often paved. The square, on the other hand, was typical in residential surroundings and characterized by green space. When describing King's Square he expressed that, "[it] is almost always filled with people, the benches fully occupied. Those out for a stroll, students, people using the park as a shortcut, tourist accompanied by their guide-- all share the space comfortably." 
The square is a beautiful and quaint spot to visit in Saint John. Making it even more noteworthy are several large monuments dotted throughout, commemorating many different people, as well as local and national events.
The Loyalist Cross
At the end of the American Revolution (1783) those who wished to remain loyal to the British Crown (known as Loyalists) flocked to British North America, including Saint John and other areas of what became New Brunswick. Approximately 15,000 loyalists settled in New Brunswick during this period.  These settlement numbers had convinced the British Government of the advantages of creating a province in 1784, and Brigadier General Thomas Carleton, responsible for transplanting many Loyalists there, was chosen as the first Governor.
A beautiful memorial for Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley greets visitors at the west end of the square (his actual remains are in nearby Fernhill Cemetery). The monument, erected in 1910, was created by Canadian sculptor Philippe Herbert. Tilley was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick in 1818. He entered politics in the 1840s and had a successful career as federal cabinet minister, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, and Father of Confederation. In 1879, he was made Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George by Queen Victoria and later made a companion of the Order of the Bath. 
In 1925 a war memorial, sculpted by Alfred Howell, was erected in the square. Howell was born in 1889 in Oldbury, England and studied at the Royal College of Art in London. Once in Canada, he taught at the Toronto Central Technical School. Howell found much success in Canada, creating war memorials in other Canadian cities, including: St. Catharines, Guelph, Sault St. Marie, Oshawa, and Pembroke (All in Ontario). In his book To Mark Our Place: A History of Canadian War Memorials, Robert Shipley stated, "Howell's monuments were often more complex than earlier ones found in Canada," adding they were, "more romantic than the static figures of the previous century." 
This memorial stands at the entrance to the square as a solemn reminder of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Interestingly, its placement was the topic of much debate. Initially, the Women's Christian Temperance Union's drinking fountain (1883) stood in its place, commemorating Loyalist women who founded the city. PhD candidate, Thomas Littlewood in his article, "Conflicting Commemorations: The Saint John War Memorial and the Women's Christian Temperance Union Foundation, 1922-1925," explained that there was a divide in public opinion over the memorial's placement, with many community members wanting to remove the drinking fountain in order to give the war memorial the most prominent spot. Others, including the mayor, strongly felt removing the fountain would be an erasure of history and lead to, "forgetting the city's Loyalist roots." In the end, the war memorial was not placed at the head of the square; instead, it was given a spot nearby. By 1962, the drinking fountain had fallen into disrepair and was removed. 
The Gorman and Young Memorials
The impressive Gorman memorial, built in 1962, captures speed skater Charles I. Gorman, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the First World War. During the 1920s he excelled in speed skating and was referred to as the "Man with the Million Dollar Legs" and the "human dynamo." Interestingly, he was also a great baseball player. He even turned down an offer to play with the New York Yankees to focus on skating. He participated in both the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, finishing seventh in both. After a lengthy illness he passed away in 1940. At his funeral, thousands of people lined the streets of Saint John to pay their respects. He was later inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. 
Nearby, the Young memorial relates a poignant story of a nineteen year old boy, John Frederick Young, who drowned in 1890 while attempting to save ten year old Freddie Mundee from meeting the same fate. The memorial's plaque has a message from John 15:13, which reads, "[g]reater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Richard Rubin, columnist for the New York Times stated that the Gorman and Young memorials were "two monuments to men who tried and failed, but went down nobly." 
Last Alarm Bell Monument
The Last Alarm Bell Monument was erected by the Saint John Firefighters Association, Local Union No. 771 and the City of Saint John in order to commemorate the bicentennial of the Saint John Fire Department (1786-1986). Its plaque reads:
Dedicated to the memory of those firefighters who answered their last alarm while serving in line of duty, may their sacrifice be perpetuated in everlasting memory by those for whom they serve."
In 1877, several years before the Firefighter Association was formed, there was a great fire in Saint John. The fire left 13,000 people homeless. As a result, many people slept in King's Square. Scholar Ronald Rees explained that, "[w]ooden buildings, closely built on commercial and some residential streets, and the ubiquitous tar, ropes, and tindery wood associated with shipping and shipbuilding, all invited flames." Nineteen people lost their lives and 1,600 buildings burned, most of them to the ground. 
King Square Today
In 2013, John Irving and Dr. Richard Currie donated $100,000 for the restoration of the bandstand. 400 people attended the unveiling and the St. Mary's band played, the first band to play there in a decade. Project foreman Andrew Shaw said that, "just watching all the smiles on everybody's faces and all the elderly people that remember the bands that used to play, and watching them play again. It's really exciting to be here. It's a proud moment."  The bandstand certainly holds a special place in the hearts of many Saint Johners. 93 year old Marjorie MacDonald recalls, "getting [her] first kiss at the bandstand from a high school sweetheart in 1941." 
Few places in Canada provide so much local and national history in one small area while also providing a park setting conducive to fresh air, walking, and, when the weather permits, enjoying some sunshine. Strolling through King's Square demonstrates how heritage sites and modern public spaces need not always be at odds with one another; some sites can provide both modern recreation and historical learning.
Saint John is a lovely city with a rich history and beautiful architecture. A trip to King's Square is a great way to spend an afternoon and is an absolute must-see!
A special thanks to the staff of the New Brunswick Museum for providing me a copy of the aerial photograph of King's Square.
 Ron Williams, Landscape Architecture in Canada (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Press, 2014), 93-94.
 Ian Sclanders. "King," Macleans Magazine August 16, 1958.
 Public plaque in King's Square
Ron Williams, Landscape Architecture in Canada, 94.
 Ronald Rees, New Brunswick: An Illustrated History (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2014), 32.
 Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley - St. John, NB, Canada. Waymarking. (accessed November 27, 2019); P.B. Waite and Carolyn Harris, "Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley," The Canadian Encyclopedia, January 20, 2008 (accessed November 27, 2019)
 Robert Shipley. To Mark our Place: A History of Canadian War Memorials (Toronto: NC Press Ltd., 1987), 129.
Thomas M. Littlewood, "Conflicting Commemorations: The Saint John War Memorial and the Women's Christian Temperance Union Fountain, 1922-1925," Journal of New Brunswick Studies, vol. 10 (2018)
 Charles Gorman, Wikipedia (accessed November 2019)
 Richard Rubin, "In Saint John in Canada, Exploring the Legacy of the Loyalists," New York Times, October 27, 2016.
 Ronald Rees, New Brunswick: An Illustrated History, 151.
 CBC. Refurbishing King's Square Bandstand Unveiled, August 1, 2013
 Shawn Rouse, Saint John's historic bandstand stolen from King's Square, The Manatee, June 23, 2016.
Help support this blog!