Kelvin House and Conservatory - City of St. John's Heritage Site
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area
Description of Historic Place
Kelvin House is a two-and-one-half-storey brick house located at 49 Rennie’s Mill Road in St. John’s. Built in 1885, Kelvin House is built in the Second Empire style and has an attached conservatory at the rear of the house. The designation encompasses the building and attached structure.
Kelvin House is designated as a Municipal Heritage Building due to its architectural, historical and environmental values.
Kelvin House is architecturally valuable as a superb brick example of the Second Empire style in St. John’s. The house is constructed entirely of brick, which is rare in Newfoundland, and this contributes to the overall architectural value of the building. The use of imported red brick for the main structure and white brick for decoration are a testament to the prosperity of the owners. Kelvin House features all of the classic elements of the Second Empire style in a very elaborate and ornate manner. The house features a mansard roof with patterned slate in a Gothic end pattern. The front facade is typical of the Second Empire style with a bay window flanking each side of the main entrance. Furthermore, the window and door trim is very elaborate and the corners of the building feature rusticated quoining.
The interior of the house is also architecturally valuable for its interesting plasterwork and woodwork. The window sashes are made of mahogany and the windows are plate glass. The doors in the house feature leaded glass inserts and sidelights. The interior of Kelvin house has ten working fireplaces.
The most interesting feature of Kelvin House is the conservatory attached at the rear of the house. Built in 1885 by the firm Lord and Burnham, it is the only remaining conservatory of its kind in Newfoundland. The structure is constructed of iron and glass and is separated into two sections; the first providing an entranceway from the house and the second featuring its own fireplace. The fireplace has its own chimney which is particularly interesting due to its height; it is very tall because it had to reach above the line of roof of the house.
Built in 1885 for Alexander Marshall, Kelvin House is historically valuable as one of the few houses that survived the Great Fire of 1892, which destroyed much of downtown St. John’s. Kelvin House is also historically valuable for its association with Alexander Marshall. Marshall came to Newfoundland in 1850 and soon became one of the most prominent merchants in St. John’s. He was first a partner in the dry goods firm of Ayre and Marshall and then later of Marshall and Rodger. This house stands as a testament to the success and affluence of Alexander Marshall as a St. John’s merchant.
Kelvin House is environmentally valuable due to its location in St. John’s. Rennie’s Mill Road was an affluent area of the city and the location of Kelvin House in this area serves as a symbol of the social status and wealth of the Marshall family during this period.
Source: Designated at a regular meeting of the St. John's Municipal council held April 25, 2006, minutes SJMC2006-04-25/252R.
Character Defining Elements
All those elements of the house that are representative of the Second Empire style executed in brick, including;
-Mansard roof, dormers, eaves brackets etc.;
-patterned roof slate;
-decorative white brick;
-ornate door and window trim;
-large rounded arch window at rear of building;
-use of house as a single dwelling;
-location in St. John’s;
-window style and placement;
-leaded glass windows and sidelights;
-double bay front facade; and,
-building height, massing and dimensions.
All those interior features which reflect the age and design of the house, including:
-mahogany window sashes
-original fireplaces with ornate mantelpieces;
-interior plaster medallions;
-original trim work and mouldings.
All those features that relate to the original design and construction of the conservatory, including:
-use of cast iron and glass;
-layout, plan and construction of conservatory and entranceway from the house.
Notes of Interest
Stone quoins, brick string course.
Location and History