Once a convent and orphanage, the manor now houses luxury condos.
From the outside, the Gothic archways with hood moulding rise at the entrances, creating a majestic verticality, much like the nearby Tudor and Gothic arch window openings with mullion tracery, the large turret on the south-east corner and the towered frontispiece. In case you don’t speak “architect,” just think: castle. Completed in 1908, the Gothic Revival building was once a Moncton-based convent and orphanage called Mary’s Home, or “St. Mary’s Home For Orphans and Foundlings.”
Atop a hill, reaching upward, Moncton’s “Castle Manor” looks almost untouched for 100 years – just disregard the large, colourful mural by the artist Eelco. But the inside would tell a different, more modern story. Now, it houses 13 luxury condos, 10 of which are permanent rental residences and three units available for short-term stays via Airbnb.
The 25,000-square-foot building was bought by the Tse family in 2014 and, since then, they have invested several million dollars into renovations. But the actual purchase price tag was a shock to many Canadians. When it hit the market in 2014, the asking price was just under $700,000 – not what one might assume a heritage building of such castle-like appearances would cost in North America anywhere else but in New Brunswick, Canada. Even more surprising, Tse and some investors ended up buying the property in 2014 for just $475,000, roughly the cost of just one small, bachelor-sized condo in any of Canada’s major cities.
But this building houses more than its “baker’s dozen” of high-end condo units. It has rich historical value to the Moncton community and New Brunswick in general. As such, Mary’s Home was designated a Local Historic Place in 1996 due to its Gothic Revival castle-style architecture and its degree of preservation at the time, as well as the impact it had on the social, economic, educational and religious development of the city.
The castle manor, when it was known as Mary’s Home, had a close association to St. Bernard’s Church and parish – the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Moncton. After building St. Bernard’s Church, Rev. Henry A. Meahan, came up with the idea of “St. Mary’s Home for Orphans and Foundlings,” to meet the growing need of housing the elderly and underprivileged youth. He purchased the homestead property from one of the most influential or wealthy families of the Moncton colony at the time for $5,000. Peter McSweeney’s family had settled in 1855 in Moncton, and were originally from Ireland. Peter Sr. opened a dry goods and furniture store at the corner of Duke and Main streets.
Peter had a few sons who were prominent figures in Moncton at the time. Peter Jr., for instance, built the first department store in Moncton before Eaton’s arrived. He was also appointed to the Senate, serving from 1899 to 1921. His brother George bought the King Hotel at Main and Highfield Streets in 1884. The brother Edward was another son who was active in politics, serving as mayor of Moncton in 1879 to 1880. He was also the owner of McSweeney quarry, which provided the stones to build the St. Bernard Church. It was Edward’s wife – by then, widow – Jennie McSweeney, who sold the 22-acre homestead property on Mountain Road to Rev. Meahan for $5,000 so that he could build Mary’s Home there. The stones for the building also came from the McSweeney quarry.
Since Rev. Meahan died in 1905 just before beginning to build the project, his successor, Rev. Edward Savage, oversaw its construction from 1906 to 1908, along with local architect René Arthur Frechet and builder Fred Leblanc. Eventually the school closed and it became strictly a senior’s residence. By 1973, Mary’s Home was closed by Archbishop Donat Chaisson and then was purchased by Robert Alcorn to become Alcorn Manor, then Baron’s Senior Centre, before “Castle Manor” since the 90s.
Knowing the history of the building, the Tse family chose to keep a lot of the original design and decor, such as the brick and stones, a piano, two chandeliers and some staircase railings. At the same time, much of the interior has been redone with modern elements. There is an elevator, a fourth-floor penthouse, sleek kitchens with shiny appliances, and mini art gallery walls in some of the hallway spaces.
Where a chapel once stood, there is now a 2,400 square foot rental unit, including a dome-shaped ceiling and two chandeliers that had been there since before the Tse’s renovated.
According to Parks Canada’s Historic Places, this Gothic Revival structure reveals both secular and religious elements. “Conspicuous exterior elements include grey freestone from the Notre Dame Quarry, a large turret on the southeast corner and a towering frontispiece facing east,” says a Parks Canada website. “These vertical elements, along with pointed Gothic arches and window openings, help to break up the rectangular massing of the overall structure.”
As well, the “crenellated, openwork and stepped parapets” over the frontispiece and west wing are “bold elements of a fortified castle,” while the mullion tracery on the stained glass Gothic windows and the two stone cruciform carvings are what Parks Canada called “cathedral elements.”
Currently, 10 units in the building are available for Airbnb guests, including a 2,000-square-foot basement unit with a lot of exposed original brick and stonework. Most of the other units are one- and two-bedrooms. Where a chapel once stood, there is now a 2,400 square foot rental unit, including a dome-shaped ceiling and two chandeliers that had been there since before the Tse’s renovated. The units can vary from 1,100 square feet to the 3,000 square feet penthouse. Two more units will become available in the future, Tse says.
On the individual Airbnb rental units’ web pages you can read that “everything from the cabinets to the window sills had to be custom-made to meet specifications” and “all appliances are Frigidaire Professional series as well as LG washer/dryer included in the unit.” The countertops are a lovely quartz with tile. The lighting fixtures are gorgeous, even when they are not old chandeliers. And in a full bathroom, there is in-floor heating.
The regular, 1,100-square-foot apartment called “Unit 201” is available for short term rental at about $200 a night this month, while the penthouse unit runs in the $550 a night range.
A little Dracula on the outside and modern luxury on the inside – if you’re looking for a place to weekend away or “staycation” while in New Brunswick, it’s hard to compare with Castle Manor.
Feature photo credit: Courtney Edgar.