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Temperance Street Houses Registered Heritage Structure

Temperance Street Houses, St. John's, NL
Temperance Street Houses, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

The Temperance Street Houses (also known as The Four Sisters and The Samuel Garrett Houses) located at 31, 35 and 37 Temperance Street, St. John’s, NL are a series of three-storey, stone row houses. They are built on a steep hill and slope down toward St. John's Harbour. The designation is confined to the footprints of three of the buildings.

Heritage Value

The Temperance Street Houses were designated Registered Heritage Structures by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988 because of their historic and aesthetic value.

The Temperance Street Houses have historic value because of their rarity within the city as stone, row housing from the early 1900s era. They are also significant for their associations with builder Samuel Garrett. Garrett was a prominent Newfoundland stonemason and began construction of the houses in 1893 as wedding gifts for his four daughters. Following the construction of numbers 31 and 33 Garrett began the project for which he became best known, the building of Cabot Tower. Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s (Giovanni Caboto) explorations in the New World, is the site of Guglielmo Marconi's first Transatlantic Wireless signal in 1901.

The aesthetic value of these buildings can be seen in their construction, design and unique materials. Surplus stone from Cabot Tower and, additionally, stone from the demolished St. George’s Hospital, was used in the building of the Temperance Street Houses. As they are today, the Temperance Street Houses stand as a testament to the quality of craftsmanship associated with all of Garrett’s work. In addition to their renowned associated builder, these houses are valuable because they are one of the only remaining set of original stone buildings in the area. Built in a bedrock cliff, these Second Empire style houses were each made to be three-storeys tall, yet only two storeys are visible from the street. Two foot thick stone was used to make the walls of these buildings and an air gap between the stone and the interior wooden framework provided insulation and protection from rot. The pedimented, peaked dormers located along the eaves of the Mansard roof are quite decorative, typical of the Second Empire style. Upon building the houses, Garrett effectively personalized each one by choosing different types of decorative moulding to frame each of the entranceways.

The Temperance Street Houses have further aesthetic value because of their close locality to Cabot Tower and, additionally, their locality within the downtown district. Since these houses were built by the same man using the same stone as was used to build Cabot Tower, many view these houses as being historically linked with Cabot Tower. Their location at the bottom of Signal Hill serves as an indicator to residents and tourists of the quality of craftsmanship to be found in Cabot Tower itself. The location of the houses in the downtown district is also valuable because these houses are among the last post-fire residential buildings left in this area.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's - Temperance Street Houses - FPT 1653”

Character Defining Elements

All original features which relate to the age and style, including:
-number of storeys;
-mansard roof;
-chimney number, style and placement;
-original cut stone surplus from Cabot tower and St. Georges Hospital;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden storm windows;
-decorative brickwork around windows;
-dormer placement and style;
-dormer window size and style;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-original decorative moulding around each of the main doorways;
-original brick pilasters;
-original stone sills;
-dentil decoration, and;
-dimension, location and orientation of building.

Notes of Interest

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 031, 035, 037 Temperance Street
Construction (circa) 1893 - 1903
Samuel Garrett
Style Second Empire
Building Plan Rectangular Short Façade