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Bartra Registered Heritage Structure

Bartra, St. John's, NL
Bartra, St. John's, NL
Bartra, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Bartra is a two-and-a-half storey Queen Anne style structure located on Circular Road in St. John’s. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Bartra has been designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador because of its historical and architectural values.

The history of Bartra House is quite significant due to its associations with a number of very influential Newfoundland figures. Built in 1905, this house was designed by noted architect William F. Butler. In addition to this house, Butler was also responsible for designing a number of other well-known structures both in and outside of St. John’s including Winterholme, The House and Our Lady of Mercy Church. Originally, this house was constructed to accommodate the family of Walter S. Monroe, a native of Dublin, Ireland. Upon his arrival to Newfoundland in 1888, Monroe worked with his uncle and soon established his own export firm. He later became president of the Imperial Tobacco Company and was the director of several other firms, including Newfoundland Light and Power.

While running his many businesses, Monroe became involved in Newfoundland politics. Following a failed attempt to be elected in 1923, Monroe was successful in gaining the support of merchants and the working class during the 1924 election and served as prime minister of Newfoundland during the turbulent years from 1924 to 1928. Monroe’s time living in the house was rather short, around two years. He sold the property to William Reid, another very prominent Newfoundland figure. Reid is best known for his leading role in the construction of the Newfoundland railway, a development that greatly improved the lives of Newfoundland residents. Besides the railway, the Reid family was also well known for their involvement in the pulp and paper industry, telecommunications and the areas coastal boats.

In 1933, the Reid family sold the property to A. E. Hickman, another of Newfoundland's most prominent businessmen. During his life he ran one of the island's most diverse and successful businesses. Operating under the name A. E. Hickman and Company Limited, his company was involved in fish export, marine supplies and the insurance industry. Hickman also capitalized early on the potential of the automobile in Newfoundland and set up one of the first car dealerships on the island. In addition to business, he also became involved in politics. In 1924 he served as prime minister of Newfoundland for just one month.

Architecturally, the Bartra House is a valuable fixture in the Rennie's Mill Road National Historic District. Situated on a sizeable mature lot, Bartra House is one of the largest single family dwellings in the city of St. John’s. Built in the Queen Anne style, this house is typical of those built by William F. Butler. The impressive pedimented portico, multi-gable roof and numerous bays are a telltale sign of Butler’s involvement in the design of this house. His attention to detail and craftsmanship is exhibited in his selection of window treatments, eaves and moulding decoration. The exterior of this house conveys a sense of grandeur and elegance, which is fitting since it housed some of the most important figures in Newfoundland’s history. The lack of exterior alterations in combination with its overall appeal makes this house a rarity in St. John’s when compared to other houses built during the same time period.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's - Bartra - FPT 632”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building's Queen Anne design including:
-asymmetry of facade;
-multi-gabled roof;
-pediments above dormers;
-multiple bays;
-narrow wooden clapboard on exterior;
-ornate exterior detailing including eaves brackets, scalloped shingles in pediments, fanlight detailing;
-original lead glass windows;
-original multi-paned windows throughout the house;
-thick window mouldings including entablatures;
-rounded windows and moulding on right gable end of house;
-turret located on the right gable end of house;
-size, dimensions and location of house; and,
-all original interior woodworking and additional elements that reflect the age and usage of the house.

Notes of Interest

The home's name comes from the Monroe family's country estate in County Dublin, Ireland.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 028 Circular Road
Construction 1904 - 1905
William F. Butler
Horwood Lumber Co. (probably); HJ Thomas
Style Queen Anne
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade