About Historic Water Street

St. Andrews, New Brunswick
2016 Great Places in Canada Winner – Great Street

Jury Statement
Historic Water Street is a part of the community of St. Andrews’ heart and identity. The pedestrian-oriented street integrates contextual urban design with open spaces and scenic views of the nearby sea. While the street’s design and architecture references the community’s over 200 years of history, the place itself has evolved to remain a daily part of resident’s lives for both commercial and recreational purposes. The street is also an attraction for the community’s over 80,000 visitors each year. It houses well-frequented restaurants, shops, galleries, and other excursion opportunities. The street is also the backdrop for a weekly Farmers Market and hosts community events in all four seasons.

Introduction
Water Street has been the heart and soul of commercial and community life in St. Andrews by-the-Sea for over 200 years – the focal point for its 1,800 residents and 80,000 annual visitors.

What do you see in this space? How do people in the community enjoy it?:

This five-block area is the place to get town services, enjoy food and art, visit with neighbours, sit beside (or go out on) the water, and appreciate both the ambiance and activity of a present-day town in an 1800s setting. It is enjoyed for:

  • By-the-sea views and salt air
  • Wide, accessible sidewalks looking into the windows of all downtown shops
  • A direct link to the Town Wharf for sightseeing, sea excursions and commercial and recreational boating
  • Market Square, a historic waterfront open space for socializing, relaxing, many town events and the weekly Farmers Market
  • Primary services: town hall, bank, post office, drugstore, hardware store, grocery store and most shops are all here
  • For visitors and residents alike: restaurants, accommodations, art galleries, boutiques and an arts and nature centre
  • For residents: historic single family homes, and apartments for seniors and others in historic buildings
  • A “step back in time”: a protected historic streetscape of commercial and residential buildings, most well over a century old
  • Easy walking distance of most of town
  • The site of all town parades and major community events. For some, this street section is converted to a pedestrian thoroughfare
  • The five-block section of Water Street from Elizabeth to Frederick is first and foremost the heart and soul of the community’s daily life. It is also a focal point for the estimated 80,000 people who visit this seaside town annually
  • The downtown streetscape remains largely unchanged from centuries past, clearly illustrating early Maritime Canadian architecture and urban design with its mix of historic built and open spaces and water access
  • As the town’s designated Historic Business District, the buildings and streetscape are protected by municipal bylaw
  • The uses within these historic buildings continue to evolve to meet changing community needs. Some are constant: the town’s historic post office, bank, drugstore and hardware store still occupy the four corners of Water and King Streets, where many residents meet daily. Others have changed with the times: what were once 1800s ship’s chandleries are now current shops, galleries and eateries.  The town hall, commercial businesses, tourist accommodations and residences add to the street’s diverse use
  • At the street’s midpoint and foot of the Town Wharf, the waterfront Market Square has been the town’s main gathering place and event site since the 1800s
  • Benches, cannons, the view of harbor activities and Thursday Farmer’s Market are part of its special appeal
  • Each year the street is host to a wide variety of public events – local, regional and international – that draw many people to the town, in all seasons
  • The heritage, ambiance and vitality of Water Street are maintained through the joint efforts of the municipality, individual owners, business associations and civic groups

Events and Festivals:

  • Winterfest – February. Local celebration with wider draw
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade – March.
  • Paddlefest – May. Regional music festival, with water events
  • St. Andrews Farmer’s Market – Thursdays, May to Oct
  • Father’s Day Road Race – June. Provincial race event
  • Water Street Bazaar – June. Local event with wider draw
  • Canada Day – July. Locally-sponsored, drawing thousands of people from southwestern New Brunswick
  • Tri St. Andrews – July. Prestigious international triathalon
  • Artists by the Sea – July. Regional artists create and sell their works
  • Indulge Wine and Food Festival – Oct. Regional
  • Christmas on Water Street – December. Decorated for the season
  • Town Christmas Tree Lighting – December
  • Santa Claus Parade – December

Economic and Retail Activities:

  • All but two of the town’s primary services are found in this five-block area (the gas station and medical centre are close by)
  • Nearly all of the town’s retail and commercial businesses are located along the street
  • International tourism is one of the town’s primary economic drivers, attracting an estimated 80,000 visitors a year. Nearly all visit the five-block historic section of Water Street to find restaurants, shops, galleries, whale watching or biking or other excursion opportunities, the weekly Farmers Market and basic services
  • Nightly and seasonal accommodations are here and – if visitors decide to become residents (a surprising number do) – real estate firms occupy historic buildings
  • The downtown Business Improvement Association actively promotes preservation and beautification of the historic streetscape and sponsors a number of Water Street events. It championed the area’s designation and signage as the Historic Business District in the 1980’s
  • The St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce also actively promotes Water Street preservation and business; its office is here

Historic or Heritage Features:

  • The design and architecture of St. Andrews date back to 1783 when United Empire Loyalists, displaced from New England after the American Revolutionary War, arrived near what is now Market Wharf to settle a new town laid out by British engineers
  • The first buildings were erected on Water Street, some even transported from New England
  • During the 1800s, when St. Andrews was one of the region’s largest seaports, the majority of Water Street’s buildings and public spaces took their present form
  • In the 1900s, the town transitioned into one of Canada’s premiere seaside summer resorts, initially drawing some of Canada’s most prestigious nation-builders and later, with modern transportation, visitors from around the world. Water Street buildings that once served seafarers catered instead to seasonal residents and travellers without altering their exteriors; others continued their longstanding uses and still do today
  • Some new buildings, now reaching the century mark, were built to meet the needs of a maturing town with new links to land transportation and these became part of the present Water Street historic tapestry
  • Today’s Historic Water Street buildings and streetscape reflect this heritage, retaining the architecture, massing and public spaces that have shaped this tapestry over the last two centuries
  • Three-quarters of the buildings are over 100 years old and many others are approaching that age. The present public spaces and wharf access are into their third century of use and still just as vital to the community
  • These five blocks are designated as the town’s Historic Business District, with its buildings and streetscape formally protected by town bylaw. The entire 1783 St. Andrews seventy-eight block town plat, including Historic Water Street, is one of Canada’s 29 designated National Historic Districts
  • Historic Plaques by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the St. Andrews Civic Trust recognize the origins of some Water Street buildings and these are being added to others through joint community efforts
  • The historic architecture of St. Andrews – including Water Street – has gained international recognition in print and media

Development:

  • Development includes: underground wiring, historic reproduction lamp standards, sidewalks of laid brick, street signage, and plaques explaining the significance of heritage buildings
  • The wide sidewalks have been modified to provide all-mobility access at every street corner and, while difficult in the available space, ramp access has been added to a number of key buildings
  • The Town is aware of the pending impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise, and is currently studying and planning for modifications to Market Square and the Town Wharf to ensure their continued vital role in the community