Jun 13 | The History of Kings Landing

Growing up in New Brunswick makes for an unforgettable childhood. A big part of growing up here meant multiple field trips and family days to the iconic Kings Landing to learn about the rich stories of past life in this great province. After a day at “The Landing,” most guests have learned all about the history of New Brunswick, but few are familiar with the history of Kings Landing itself.

Kings Landing under construction

The story of Kings Landing begins in the 1940s when the Provincial Reconstruction Committee and Resources Development Board identified New Brunswick’s need for more electrical power. This need sparked the proposal and eventual implementation of the Mactaquac Dam which is still in use today. However, the downside of constructing the dam was that it would cause major flooding to the headpond area. This was going to compromise historic 19th-century homes that were situated in the soon to be flooded headpond. As a solution, in 1964 the Federal and Provincial government provided funding to develop Kings Landing Historical Village to preserve these historic homes of New Brunswick.

From 1964-65 J.R. Stevens conducted a report to determine which buildings were worth saving. The traditional homes that were selected from the report were carefully transported across the river or by road to the settlement. An ice road was created in the winter extending across the Saint John River which was used to tow buildings by vehicle. In the summer, buildings were placed on a heavy-duty raft that was connected to a pulley system which was used to transport buildings across the open river. Some buildings were transported by road; however the majority travelled across the Saint John River.

Long House on river.

The 1970s and 80s were a period of rapid growth. Kings Landing cemented them self as an iconic Canadian museum. Visitors began touring in 1970 while the site was still under restoration. The official opening of Kings Landing took place four years later in 1974. At this time guests could tour the Hagerman, Joslin, Lint, Long, Ingraham,  Heustis houses; the Agricultural Hall; St. Marks Anglican Church; the Grant Store; a one-room schoolhouse; a blacksmith shop; and the King’s Head Inn restaurant. That same year, the Kings Landing Corporation took over the operation of the settlement. Two years later in 1976, a very special visitor came to town. HRH Queen Elizabeth herself came to New Brunswick and visited Kings Landing to officially open the Morehouse home.

Queen Elizabeth at Kings Landing in 1976.

That same year the popular, inaugural Visiting Cousins summer camp program launched. It is still operating today — over 30 years later! This program has allowed thousands of children the unique experience of making Kings Landing their home for a week. By 1980, Kings Landing grew to over 70 buildings and 120 costumed staff. Incredibly, by 1982, over one million guests had experienced Kings Landing’s unique museum experience. Two years later, in 1984, the famous Sugar Bush began–which is still operating and very popular today. For me personally, Sugar Bush represents my fondest and most exciting memories of Kings Landing as a child. At Sugar Bush, villagers make a special treat by pouring maple syrup over the snow and rolling it up on a stick. This creates a delicious and fresh maple candy called a “long-lick.” Sugar bush is a huge hit among locals and tourists.

Kings Landing continues to evolve with new additions but the rich, intriguing history of life in New Brunswick during the 19th-century remains lost to time. Recently, the Exhibit Experience has been added to complement the stories that are brought to life in the Village.

The Exhibit Experience provides a space to host workshops and special events and to tell the stories of some of Kings Landing’s most unique and valuable artefacts. Exciting new additions in recent years include guided horseback riding, the Children’s Play Park, a summer stage for concerts and performances, a corn maze, heritage teaching gardens with a seed saving program  , and plenty of curatorial and event space for partners.

Heustis House on ice road

As you cross the bridge and see the landmark Sawmill (one of Canada’s most photographed buildings), you will be travelling back in time to 19th-century rural, New Brunswick. Here, in the Village, you’ll meet a variety of folks from New Brunswick’s colourful past. These people are dressed in period clothing and are interpreting real stories from New Brunswick’s past.

Making ends-meet is of constant concern for the community, so don’t be surprised when you’re asked to pitch-in. Pop into their homes and shops, lend a hand to the farmers in the fields and when you’re ready to take a load-off, order a refreshing drink at the English-style pub. By the time you’re ready to head back to reality, you’ll probably be pretty tired! Cap your day off by hitching a leisurely wagon ride around the Village–it’s the perfect end to a truly memorable day!

I encourage you to embrace your history as our nation celebrates its 150th anniversary. Take some time this summer to visit this one-of-a-kind historical experience and discover the history of New Brunswick first-hand. To see everything going on at Kings Landing during the 2018 season, check out this online calendar. There truly is something for everyone!

René Comeau

I am Rene Comeau; a proud Canadian and New Brunswicker born and raised in this wonderful province. I have a passion for anything and everything New Brunswick.

I have represented this province on multiple occasions across Canada as skip on the provincial junior curling team and am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Communications at St. Thomas University in Fredericton.

It is great to see Canada and New Brunswick embrace this 150 year anniversary to celebrate this amazing place we live. I’m excited to be part of a team of New Brunswickers sharing the stories of the province and enriching the understanding people have in regards to our history.

Posted in Blog