Richmond Hill, 18 Topsail Road, is an early 19th century, two-storey wooden house perched snugly in the side of a hill in west end St. John’s. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area
18 Topsail Road, Richmond Hill was designated a municipal heritage building because it has historic and aesthetic values. 18 Topsail Road has historic value because of its associations with the Honorable Kenneth McLea, and Gilbert Browning. McLea was a St. John’s merchant who purchased the land near the Crossroads in Riverhead in 1848. McLea was a candidate for St. John’s west in the election of 1861, and his candidature resulted in an election riot in which three people were shot to death on Water Street. He died a year later. Subsequently his business went bankrupt and the family sold the property. Gilbert Browning was a Scottish builder-architect who came to Newfoundland following the Great Fire of 1846 in which a large portion of St. John’s was burnt. Browning arrived amongst a large number of men who were engaged in the building trades in England and who came to help with rebuilding the town. He was hired by McLea to design and build Richmond Hill. Thirty years after Browning built the house, he purchased it as his family residence. He became a prominent businessman in his own right. His most successful venture was a biscuit factory near the Crossroads, which afterwards was carried on under the name of Browning-Harvey. This company is still in operation today. Richmond Hill is aesthetically valuable because of its age and because it is a very good example of early Classical Vernacular architecture. This house has narrow wooden siding and wide cornerboards. The Mansard roof has five sided dormers with peaked roofs, and there are two large chimneys located at both ends. Richmond Hill has unique windows, which are very tall, spanning from the floor to the top of the first floor. Classical pediments adorn the façade over each window and door. The main entrance is recessed and has a transom. This building speaks to the wealth of its original owner, being one of the finest, earliest residences in St. John’s. Source: City of St. John’s Archives, Railway Coastal Museum and Archives, designated by the City 2003/06/09.
Character Defining Elements
All those elements that embody the early Classical Vernacular style, including: -pediments; -mansard roof; -five-sided dormers; -narrow wooden clapboard; -recessed entryway; -transom; -location, orientation, dimensions; -height and general massing; -large chimneys; and -size, style and arrangement of windows.
Three 5-sided dormer windows on front facade, large rectangular windows throughout the structure
Location and History
City of St. John's
018 Topsail Road
1848 - 1849
Rectangular Long Façade