Tag Archives: St. John’s

Sledding with Mark Critch in Victoria Park ? Come out for the laugh!

Archival Moment

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers. Click on image to enlarge to read all of the regulations.

Signage declaring new regulations about sliding on the hills in St. John’s has been posted in public places throughout the city. The signage declares a whole raft of rules about what can and cannot be done when snow sledding.

Some think that this is a new  conversation, but the reality is that regulations about snow sliding or sledding in St. John’s started more than 100 years ago.

In 1916 “skating or sliding down the hills” was on the agenda of Newfoundland legislators, so much so  that the lawmakers opted to pass legislation about sliding.

In Chapter 51 of the Consolidated Acts, 1916 under the chapter title “Of Nuisances and Municipal Regulations” Section 14 the Act reads:

“The stipendiary magistrate may make regulations for preventing persons from coasting, skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets …”

The focus of the legislation in 1916 was on the  “… skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets…”  

There was a time when citizens of all ages loved nothing more than grabbing their sleigh for a ride down of the steep hills of the city.

The practice was however quite dangerous. The local newspapers reported on an almost daily basis about individuals being injured on the hills of the town.

On January 14, 1916 the Evening Telegram reported:

“Boy Injured while sliding over Prescott Street”  Yesterday after noon,  newsboy met with a painful accident. He collided with another sled resulting in a deep wound being inflicted in his leg. The injured youth was brought to a nearby drug store for treatment and was later conveyed home and attended by a doctor. “

On February 18, 1916 under the headline “Dangerous practice the sliding of children” the Telegram reported:

“The sliding of children on the city heights is a very dangerous practice particularly on those hills near the street car rails. This morning two children of Hutching’s Street narrowly escaped being killed by a passing street car. The sled on which the youngsters were seated passing in front of the car’s fender by a couple of feet. “

The new signage posted on St. John’s hills and parks  (including Victoria Park) owned by the city comes after the city of St. John’s had to review  its liability in the wake of the city of Hamilton, Ontario being sued following an injury at a popular sledding hill . The City of Sudbury, Ontario in response to the same lawsuit responded by fencing off a sliding hill and banning tobogganing on public land outright.

Almost 100 years following the initial conversation about snow sliding on the hills of St. John’s the conversation continues. The warning signs in Victoria Park read no  “crazy carpets and flying saucers.”

GET OFF  THE CITY  STREETS AND MAKE YOUR WAY TO VICTORIA PARK

Please join the board of the Victoria Park Foundation  on February 9, 2019 from 4pm -6pm with our honorary Chair Mark Critch for an early evening of sledding in this historic park.

Learn more about  the revitalization of the Park that began in the Fall of 2016. Phase 1 included a  number of improvements including and the illumination of the Sliding Hill. 

There is during the sledding event  the promise of hot chocolate for all and prizes for some activities that are planned.

Credit: The Rooms E 34-11 Water St and Victoria Park

Learn more about Victoria Park, St. John’s:   https://victoriaparknl.ca/

For more information contact:
Coordinator, VP Foundation Inc
Phone: (709) 576-2309
Cell: (709) 687-4341
www.victoriaparknl.ca
https://m.facebook.com/VPRenewal/
twitter: @VictoriaParkNL1

 

The danger of walking on the streets of St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 15, 1850

Photo Credit: the Rooms Provincial Archives: A 35-61; Snow Banks on Military Road, Colonial Building in Background

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 35-61; Snow Banks on Military Road, Colonial Building in Background.  [ca 1910]

The complaints of the residents of St. John’s about snow clearing and allowing pedestrian’s safe passage on the streets are not new.  As early as 1850 the town now city of St. John’s has been trying to negotiate the delicate balance between walkers and drivers.

An Editorial in the Morning Post and Shipping Gazette a St. John’s newspaper on January 15, 1850 speaks about the difficulty of getting about the town.  The editorial reads:

“Solely from a desire to preserve the well-being of all classes in the community, we call the attention of the Police to the extreme carelessness manifested by the drivers of vehicles of almost every kind, in neglecting to provide them with a sufficiency of bells to give the foot passenger timely notice to move out of their way.

No person in St. John’s need be reminded of the difficulty, and often danger, of perambulating the streets of this town during the winter months ….

The Police would do well to order that all vehicles, both sleighs and slides, whether drawn by horses or dogs, shall be amply provided with bells  to give timely notice of their approach; an order which, we hope will not  only be given, but strictly attended to and rigidly enforced.”

Pedestrians, if you are preambulating the streets,  wear light or reflective clothing.  These drivers need to see you!

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives Division read the old newspaper accounts that give great insight into the events of the past.  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/

Recommended Web Site: City of St. John’s Snow Clearing: http://www.stjohns.ca/living-st-johns/streets-traffic-and-parking/snow-clearing

Recommended to Read: Rain, Drizzle and Fog: Newfoundland Weather by Sheilah Roberts. Boulder Publications,  2014.    Newfoundlanders love to talk about the weather. And why wouldn’t they? The province is known for its great gales, fierce blizzards, destructive glitter storms, blizzards, and hurricanes. Sheilah Roberts delves into the archives, to find stories of Newfoundland weather. Reports from 400 years of Newfoundland and Labrador weather are interspersed with traditional weather lore, snippets of science, and dozens of fascinating photos.

 

Consecration of the Basilica

ARCHIVAL MOMENTS

September 9, 1855

The Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s, NL was consecrated on September 9, 1855.

Four Roman Catholic bishops arrived in St. John’s for the consecration of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica)  early in the night of Monday, September 3, 1855, and proceeded immediately to the Cathedral, amid the tumultuous welcome of a large and enthusiastic throng of spectators. Every available space along the route of the procession was densely packed. The great bells of the Cathedral, together with those of the Old Roman Catholic Chapel on Henry Street and of the convents, pealed forth. The windows of the houses along the route were brilliantly lighted and the streets were illuminated not only by the gas lights but also by flaming torches, giving a most picturesque appearance to the town.

The procession wended its way to the recently completed Cathedral, where the bishops knelt in prayer. After a blessing was given to the congregation, Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s spoke to the crowd, thanking them for the warm reception they had given the visitors. All then dispersed for the night.

During the next few days, the prelates were entertained at various functions, and received addresses of welcome from the Benevolent Irish Society, and other groups.

A LABOUR OF LOVE, WAS AT LAST ACCOMPLISHED.

On September 9 the day of Consecration, great crowds of people flocked into St. John’s, from remote as well adjacent settlements. It appeared that the entire Catholic population of the island had come to participate in the ceremonies. The Consecration of the Cathedral was carried out by Bishop Mullock, with all the solemnities prescribed in the Roman Pontifical. Twenty-two of the thirty priests in Newfoundland were present, as well as the Secretary-Chaplain to Archbishop Hughes, and the Chaplain to Bishop MacKinnon.

The celebrations with which the day of Consecration came to a close were truly impressive. That night, the entire frontage of the Cathedral and adjacent buildings was decorated with 1500 coloured lamps, while the Catholic people in every quarter of the town vied with one another in illuminating the windows of their houses. Tar barrels blazed in the streets, firearms were discharged, and sky rockets streamed through the air. Every available means was employed to proclaim the prevailing joy and thanksgiving that the great work, which was truly a labour of love, was at last accomplished.

The four visiting Roman Catholic Bishops were: Most Rev. John Hughes, Archbishop of New York; Bishop Armand-Francois de Charbonnel, of Toronto; Bishop Thomas Louis Connolly of New Brunswick; Bishop Colin Francis MacKinnon of Arichat (Antigonish),Nova Scotia.

Archbishop John Hughes of New York was so impressed that such a substantial cathedral could be built in a town of the size of St. John’s (approximately 25,000) by sealers and fishermen that he resolved when he returned to New York that he would commence the construction of his cathedral that we now know as St. Patrick’s Cathedral on  Madison Avenue in New York.

The Basilica has undergone many revisions since its completion in 1855,  its very existence represents something more durable even than stone, as this simple verse describes:

“The fishermen who built me here
Have long ago hauled in their nets,
But in this vast cathedral
Not a solitary stone forgets
The eager hearts, the willing hands
Of those who laboured and were glad
Unstintingly to give to God
Not part, but all of what they had.”

Recommended Website: History of the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s, NL: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/basilique-basilica/en/index.html

Recommended Reading: Fire Upon the Earth: the Life and Times of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, O.S.F.  by J.B. Darcy, C.F.C.: Creative Publishers, 2003.

Recommended Reading: The Story of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist by Susan Chalker Browne;  Flanker Press, 2015  

 

Mysterious Iceberg off St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 24, 1905

“Our Lady of the Fjords”

Mysterious Iceberg in St. John’s Narrows, T.B. Hayward. June 24, 1905

On  June 24, 1905 T.B. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Christian presence.

The photograph in ques­tion depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John’s. How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown. The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes. His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he com­posed a sonnet in honour of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to the glistening ice figure as “a shimmering shrine – our bright Atlantic Lourdes. The sonnet was published Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.

Our Lady of the Fjords

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.” Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book  Baltimore’s Mansion.

The timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition appearing in the St. John’s Narrows  was quite  significant.

June 24 on the Christian calendar is the Feast of St. John the Baptist.   On June 24, 1497  John Cabot “discovered”  Newfoundland,  it is the feast day of the patron saint of the R.C. Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral  in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? The Rooms has hundreds of photographs of icebergs. Type “iceberg” in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading:   Kodak Catholicism: Miraculous Photography and its Significance by Jessy C. PAGLIAROLI : Canadian Catholic Historical  Association (CCHA) , Historical Studies, 70 (2004), 71_93

Recommended Archival Collection:  Very few photographs of Thomas B. Hayward have been identified.  If you are aware of other photographs and sketches created by Thomas or his father J. W Hayward the  Rooms Provincial Archives Division would love to hear from you.

Last Body from the Titanic Recovered

ARCHIVAL MOMENT
June 6, 1912

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, A 9-42, SS Algerine

On June 6, 1912, the last body of those that had died on the Titanic was delivered to Halifax, Nova Scotia for burial.  The body had been recovered by the steamer Algerine, out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the last of four ships chartered by the White Star Line to search for bodies in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic.

The Algerine was a cargo and passenger ship (and part-time sealer) owned by Bowring Brothers Limited ofSt. John’s. She sailed under the command of Captain John Jackman. Also aboard were chief officer Richard B. Giles and undertakers Andrew Carnell from Carnell’s Funeral Home and a Mr. Lawrence the undertaker with Lawrence Brothers.

The White Star Line owners were receiving constant criticism  from families wanting to  bury and mourn their loved one’s.  To show that they were attempting to recover the bodies and  that these bodies were being treated with respect and dignity the chartered ships each had an undertaker.

The Algerine left St. John’s on Thursday, 16 May 1912 loaded with ice and salt for the preservation of the bodies and  coffins.  While her search persisted for three weeks, she recovered only one body, that of Saloon Steward James McGrady (Body number 330). His remains were brought back to Halifax on 6 June and trans-shipped to Halifax aboard the steamer Florizel.  He was buried in Halifax on June 12, 1912, the last victim of the Titanic disaster to be buried.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives Division or  the virtual exhibit:  One Hundred Year Later: Titanic in the Archives: http://www.exhibits.therooms.ca/titanic/default.asp

Recommended Museum Exhibit:    Here, We Made A Home
Where:  Level 4, The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery is home to a number of artifacts linked to the Titanic including  the Titanic Life jacket.

 

 

 

 

The crowded sidewalks of St. John’s

Archival Moments

15 May 1879

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John's, looking east.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John’s, looking east.

On May 15, 1879 the Colonial Government of Newfoundland declared that they had had enough of the businessmen on Water Street obstructing the natural flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of the historic street. It appears that the businessmen were hindering traffic by placing their wares in “boxes, barrels, and packages”   on the sidewalks.

To show that they saw this as a very serious matter, constables dragged before the Police Court in St. John’s “forty two (42) representatives of the business houses on Water Street.” The parade of businessmen to the Police Court included according to the local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, “men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country.”

The Telegram continued:

“It was certainly unique to see so many of our leading civilians arraigned at the bar of justice, and we must confess that our feelings were truly indescribable when we entered the court room and glanced around.”

The Evening Telegram reporter seemed to be enjoying the spectacle observing with some embellishment that:

“There they were, men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country, philanthropists, merchant princes and politicians of the first order; constrained by the omnipotent mandate of the presiding genius of the magisterial bureau. In short they were there on a charge of violation of the following the Municipal Regulations Act.”

The particular act that they were dragged before the courts to answer too was the regulation or act that read:

“Any person who shall place or deposit on any sidewalk in any of the said places, except in transit, any boxes, barrels, packages, or any other matter or thing, so as to obstruct free passage on the said side walk, shall for very offence forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding twenty five dollars.”

Water Street, St. John’s was the hub of the cultural, social and economic activity in St. John’s in the 18th – 20th century.

In 1877, just two years before this mass arrest of the business leaders of St. John’s, Rochfort’s Business Directory, the “Business and General Directory Containing Classified Lists of Business Men of St. John’s” gave a detailed listing of all trades on Water Street and reported that there were on the historic street many different kinds of enterprises.

Some of the businesses on the historic street included: 3 Photographic studios, 8 Auctioneering houses, 4 Bakeries, 2 Blacksmiths, 3 Boarding houses, 15 Boot and Shoe Makers, 15 Butcher Shops, 3 China and Glassware Dealers, 4 Confectioners, 2 Coopers, 2 Dentists, 1 Distiller, 28 Drapers, 2 Engineers, 2 Furniture Dealers, 31 Grocers, 3 Hairdressers, 3 Harness Makers, 11 Hardware Dealers, 2 Hotels, 2 Joiners, 3 Leatherware Dealers, 4 Lumber Merchants, 32 General Merchants, 6 Millinery, I Painter, 2 Plumbers, 2 Pump and Lock Makers, 6 Stationers, 1 Stonemason, 19 Tailors, 7 Tin, Sheet and Iron and Copper Workers, 8 Watchmakers, and 50 Wine and Spirit Retail Stores.

With so many businesses being located on Water Street vying for the attention of the same customers it was not surprising that they should position their products on the sidewalks to try and lore customers into their shops!!

Do you have any problems navigating the sidewalks in St. John’s?

Recommended Archival Collection: City and Town Directories held in archives give incredible insights into the business life of Newfoundland communities. A few of the directories that should be consulted when doing research are Hutchinson’s Directory of Newfoundland (1864); Lovell’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); McAlpine’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); and Rochfort’s Directory of Newfoundland (1877).

Recommended Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Great day for hauling stone

Archival Moment 

February 7, 1864

St. Patrick's Church, St. John's.

St. Patrick’s Church, St. John’s.

On February 7, 1864, work officially began on St. Patrick’s Church, Patrick Street, St. John’s with the hauling of the stone taken from the Southside Hills (at Cudahy’s (also Cuddihy) Quarry) in St. John’s.  The first sleigh of stone was delivered to the site  by the Cathedral (now Basilica)  Fire Brigade.

Typically, in the construction of stone buildings, the stone was hauled during the winter, when the road surfaces were packed with snow allowing the horses to pull the very heavy loads.

It is estimated that 600 tonnes of stone was hauled from Cudahy’s Quarry  by volunteer labor for the construction of the new church.

Construction continued as funds and materials permitted.

Twenty five years later, St. Patrick’s Church was consecrated on August 28, 1881.

The hauling of the stone on sleighs from the South Side Hills to the site of the future St. Patrick’s Church resulted in the death of one child. Children would grab onto the huge mounds of stone on the sleighs as they traveled through the streets. One child was crushed when a stone slab slid from the sleigh as the child tried to grab on for a joy ride.

Most Reverend John Hughes, Archbishop of New York and Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s laid the cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Church on September 10, 1855.  The church was designed in the late Gothic Revival, also termed Neo-Gothic, style by J.J. McCarthy, a prominent Irish architect, and was built by T. O’Brien, local architect and mason.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: [Collection MG 956] Provincial Archives Special Items collection. Item consists of an address from the parishioners of St. Patrick’s, St. John’s, to their pastor for services rendered over twenty five years. 39 x 53 cm; watercolour floral border and illustration of St. Patrick’s church at bottom centre; main text hand-lettered with watercolour.

Recommended Reading: J.J.McCarthy and the Gothic Revival in Ireland by Jeanne Sheehy., June 1977. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.

“Dunning” his neighbor and friend leads to fistcuffs and assault.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

January 20, 1885

Dunning - 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Dunning – 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Many people trying to manage debt problems have unfortunately experienced the added stress of dealing with persistent calls from collection agencies. Today, the collectors harass by phone but there was a time when it was much more personal, much more “in your face.”

In January 1885 Charles Coveyduck of Upper Gullies was determined to get his friend and neighbor Edward Corbett to repay  £5 that he had loaned him, so determined  was Coveyduck that he harassed Corbett day after day. This relentless pursuit was known as “dunning”, the word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Edward Corbett was fed up with the “dunning” and told his neighbor in no uncertain terms.  The conversation got rather heated, Coveyduck shouted that “he had something better to do than dancing attendance upon Corbett”  and “called Corbett out of his name.”

Their animosity had grown such that the local St. John’s newspaper, The Telegram reported on January 20, 1885:

“Thereupon Coveyduck caught Corbett by the collar of the coat and administered what the spruce young chap on Prescott Street would term “condign punishment.”  However, it was a square game of fistcuffs on both sides, a mode of settling disputes that has a certain recommendation, in itself in these troublous times. They departed bad friends and as Coveyduck wadded through the evergreen glades of the pleasant village of Upper Gullies he vowed that he would make his antagonist “sweat for it in Mr. Prowse’s Court.”

True to his word Coveyduck with his lawyer, Mr Carty at his side and Corbett with his lawyer,  Mr. Emerson at his side stood before Judge Prowse.

His worship, Judge Prowse heard the case fully but as there were certain mitigating circumstances in favor of the accused, (the excessive dunning) he fined Corbett only fifty cents and costs.

The smile was soon wiped off Corbett’s face, in the subsequent civil action for recovery of the £5, judgment was given to Coveyduck in the full amount claimed.

The two friends, Coveyduck and Corbett, should have heeded the words of Shakespeare:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to explore  GN 170 Newfoundland and Labrador court records collection. (microfilm) The collection  of court records looks at  decisions of the court s predominantly  involving debt,  forgery, manslaughter, murder, property disputes,  assault, smuggling, noise complaints, larceny, damages, judgments, casting away of vessels, indecent assault, rape, arson, drunkenness,  etc.  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/

Old Word:  “Dunning” is the process of methodically communicating with customers to ensure the collection of accounts receivable. Communications progress from gentle reminders to almost threatening letters as accounts become more past due. The word stems from the 17th century verb dun, meaning to demand payment of a debt.

Opera House in St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 26, 1888

Advertisement: The Telegram, St. John’s, July 23, 1888.

There was much excitement in St.  John’s on Thursday, July 26, 1888   with the official opening of a “City Opera House.”

Throughout the week the local newspapers were advertising the highly anticipated opening with bold headlines that proclaimed   “A Grand Artistic Opening.”  The advertisements encouraged residents of St. John’s

“to reserve their tickets during the day, at J.W. Foran’s  Confectionary Store, Atlantic Hotel Building to avoid the crush at the Ticket office.”

The Tickets did not come cheap!!

Admission for Reserved Seats (Dress Circle) 75 cents; Orchestra Chairs, 50 cents; Gallery Chairs, 30 cents; Parquette, 20 Cents  and  the luxury  of a box seat a whopping $6.00.

The proprietor of the Opera House was the St. John’s businessman J.W. Foran who was well established at the J.W. Foran Confectionary Store in the Atlantic Hotel Building.  In his advertisements he stated:

“The proprietor of the city opera house (Mr. J. W. Foran) seeing the great want of a place of musical and dramatic talent, of which the rising generation have not had the advantage of hearing or seeing, has suited the opera house with all modern improvements, suitable for the production of entertainments of the very highest order – thus giving the people o St. John’s an opportunity of hearing some of the best musical talent in America. The establishment of such a space means a very large outlay, and it is to be hoped that the public will give it that substantial support which will warrant its permanency. The season will commence with the famous San Francisco Minstrels”

This talented group from San Francisco was under the management of Charles L. Howard. Engaged for a limited season only, the cost of transportation alone was nearly one thousand dollars. Before each performance, a Grand Balcony Serenade was to be given by the Silver Cornet Band.

Reviews of the performances during the following week stated that the

“minstrel’s are nightly drawing large and respectable audiences. They have advanced considerably in the estimation of our people since their first appearance which did not give the satisfaction anticipated and are steadily increasing in popularity.”

This was the first Opera House in St. John’s, but was not the first opera.

The first opera performed in Newfoundland, Thomas Linley’s The Duenna; or the Double Elopement, was presented in May 20, 1820 as a benefit for the victims of the great fire of 1817.   The Duenna is a three-act comic opera, was considered one of the most successful operas ever staged in England. Lord George Byron called it “the best opera ever written”).

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to look at MG 343.1  the script for Patience: a new & original aesthetic  an opera  written by W.S. Gilbert, Composed by Arthur Sullivan , 12 Apr. 1883. Item consists of Opera that was “given in aid of the poor by a number of amateur ladies and gentlemen at the Star of the Sea Hall, St. John’s”.

Recommended Virtual Exhibit:  How did a young girl from  an outport community on the  northeast coast of  Newfoundland gain  international recognition on  the stages of the world?  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?lg=English&ex=00000469&fl=0&id=exhibit_home

 

 

 

The Great Fire of 1892: Panel Discussion

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 8, 1892   

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B4-49; St. John’s East in ruins folloing the Great Fire. (note the Basilica in the background)

Late in the afternoon of 8 July 1892, a small fire broke out in a St. John’s stable on Freshwater Road after a lit pipe or match fell into a bundle of hay. Although containable at first, the flames quickly spread due to dry weather conditions.  Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost all of St. John’s.

The fire burned into the night and did not end until about 5:30 the following morning.  Many people camped out in Bannerman Park or on property surrounding the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica), which was one of the few buildings the fire did not destroy.

As the sun rose on 9 July, more than two-thirds of St. John’s lay in ruins and 12,000 people were homeless; many had lost everything they owned, except the clothes they were wearing.

One of the accounts written about the fire was penned by W.J. Kent   who wrote:

“All the arteries which led from the water to the higher portions of the town were crowded with the terrorised mob and the screams and cries of the women mingled with the wailing of children, the shouts intensified by the ever-freshening masses of livid fire and the glare of the burning buildings, contributed to make a scene the like of which it is not often given to the lot of many to witness…. Few there were who closed their eyes that night.”

Four persons were burned to death.  The devastation that struck the city was recorded by one of the priests on staff at the R.C. Cathedral (the Basilica) who wrote on Sunday July 10, 1892”

 “There was no publications today in consequence of the great calamity that has happened in our city on Friday evening and night, when the best part of St. John’s east was entirely destroyed by fire which caused such a panic that everyone is excited and frightened and nearly 12, 000 persons are left homeless, over 2000 houses were burned besides stores, wharfs…”

At the Last Mass, Father Scott preached a very touching sermon about the fire and those who were its sufferers from its effects.  Four persons were burned to death, namely:

Mrs. Catherine Stevens    }lived on Meeting House Hill

Her daughter Louisa Stevens

And the servant girl – name not known

Also Miss Catherine Molloy, Bulley’s Lane, and elderly girl not married

RIP

 

The Great Fire of 1892

Rev. Moses Harvey at  St. Andrews Free Presbyterian Church on the day following the fire walked about the city, he presents a similar description of the devastation and plight of the victims of the fire.

“The next morning I took a walk around the awful scene of devastation. It was heart-rending. Nothing visible for a mile from Devon Row but chimneys and fallen and tottering walls. The thick smoke, from the smouldering ruins still filled the air… The wrecks of the fanes of religion stood out, then [sic] broken walls pointing heavenward, as if in mournful protest against the desecration that had been wrought.

And the poor inhabitants, where were they? It made the heart ache to see the groups of men, women and children, with weary, blood-shot eyes and smoke begrimed faces, standing over their scraps of furniture and clothing — some of them asleep on the ground from utter exhaustion — all with despondency depicted on their faces. They filled the park and grounds around the city. Many hundreds escaped with nothing but the clothes they wore… .”

Presentation: The history and consequences of the Great Fire 
Location: The Rooms,Theatre
Date: Sunday, July 9, 2017
Time: 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Cost: Included with the cost of admission

Join panelists Larry Dohey, Emily Campbell, Charles Henley, and moderator Jason Sellars for a lively discussion of the history and consequences of the Great Fire of 1892. Stay after the discussion for an interactive imagination session in partnership with the City of St. John’s and The Rooms.

 

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type “Great Fire” in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives