Saint John police say the early-morning fire that damaged a historic building was presumably started.
A report released Tuesday said the fire had caused “major damage” to Barbour’s General Store – a structure located across from City Hall at the foot of King Street.
“The preliminary results of the investigation determined that it was a burnt fire; “However, further investigation continues to determine whether the fire was started intentionally or accidentally,” police said.
Firefighters say they responded to the call around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning – with one member being treated and released for heat exhaustion as the fire was contained.
The roads in the city center in the area were closed for a large part of the morning, which affected the morning commute of many.
On a normal day, most would pass by the structure without thinking about it, but many in the city spent formative summers inside.
“That building has been through a lot,” says Paula Copeland, who shared some images of summers in the ’90s working as a student at Barbour’s.
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She and numerous others worked as tour guides in the store, guiding hundreds of tourists through the city each year.
Although the building became something of a Uptown history center, it was not in the city at all until the late 60’s.
It was built in the mid 1800’s in McGowans Corner, NB
Records indicate that from the 1860s to the 1940s it served as a general store there.
Twenty years later, the structure made its way down the St. John River made to the port city – literally.
GE Barbour, the company whose name was given to the museum, funded an operation to float the century-old shop along the river.
In the decades since, it has been operating as a museum – especially during the busy summer sailing seasons.
For almost a full one, Karen J. McLean worked there.
“For seven seasons, I opened it, made it ready for everyone and then I would close it at the end of the year,” she says.
After she became attached, word of the fire started hard on her Tuesday.
“I was confused. Absolutely confused, ”says McLean.
McLean and Copeland met at the store.
They say they are still in touch with each other, and many others who have shared that experience.
It’s not yet known exactly how big the damage to Barbour’s is, but a city spokesman tells Global News it’s covered under their fire insurance, so McLean is optimistic he has not seen his last tourist.
“Museums are very important,” she says.
“Of all those school children I spent there, you never know who will be a history lover.”
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