Kelvin House is a two-and-a-half-storey brick house with a basement level, located at 49 Rennie’s Mill Road in St. John’s, NL. Dating to 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.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Kelvin House was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001 due to its aesthetic and historic value.
Kelvin House was built in 1885 for merchant Alexander Marshall. Marshall came to Newfoundland in 1850 and soon became one of the most prominent businessmen in St. John’s, first as a partner in the dry goods firm of Ayre and Marshall and later as Marshall and Rodger. Around 1928, Kelvin House was sold to the Bairds – another well-established merchant family in St. John’s. Rennie’s Mill Road was historically an affluent neighbourhood and Kelvin House’s location in this area speaks to the social and economic prominence of the merchant families who lived there.
Kelvin House is a unique example of a pre-1892 Second Empire-style house in St. John’s. Though the Second Empire “Southcott” style became ubiquitous in downtown houses after the Great Fire of 1892, the pre-fire Kelvin House is a rare example of this architectural style in brick. The house, likely constructed by local builder John Score, uses imported red brick with stone trim and white brick accents. It features an ornate mansard roof, clad in alternating lines of pink and grey scalloped roof slates. The front facade of Kelvin House, with bay windows flanking the main entrance, is also typical of the Second Empire style. Elaborate stone trim adds interest to doors and windows and the corners of the building are enlivened by rusticated quoining. Despite the addition of a Modernist garage to the rear of the building in the 1950s, Kelvin House retains much of its original period look and character. This extends to the interior of the building, where the ornate plaster ceilings and historic woodwork are still visible.
One of the most notable feature of Kelvin House is the conservatory attached at the rear of the building. Completed in 1886 by American firm Lord and Burnham. The structure is constructed of iron and glass and is connected directly to the house. Like Kelvin House itself, the conservatory was heated by a hot water radiator system – the latest in heating technology at the time. Heat was also supplied by the fireplace, with its proportionately tall chimney (necessary to reach above the line of the house). The Kelvin House conservatory is the only remaining Lord and Burnham conservatory in the province.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John’s – Kelvin House – FPT 735”
Character Defining Elements
All those elements of the house that are representative of the Second Empire style executed in brick, including:
-two-and-a-half storey construction, with basement level;
-size, style and placement of brick chimney with decorative white brick inlay;
-scalloped grey and pink roof slates;
-decorative white brick inlay below eaves;
-size, style and placement of bonnet dormers;
-stringcourse separating first and second storey;
-large rounded arch stairwell window at rear of building;
-bay windows on front facade;
-window size, style, trim and placement;
-leaded glass windows and sidelights;
-ornate stone trim on doors and windows, and;
-building massing, dimensions, location and orientation.
All those interior features which reflect the age and design of the house, including:
-staircase with carved newels;
-mahogany window sashes;
-original fireplaces with carved mantelpieces:
-interior plaster medallions, and;
-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;
-fireplace with tall chimney, and;
-layout, plan and construction of conservatory and entranceway from the house.
All those environmental features pertaining to the age and history of the property, including:
-any original stone walls;
-large property with mature trees, and;
-proximity to other merchant houses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Location and History
City of St. John's
049 Rennie's Mill Road
1885 - 1885
John Score, Lord & Burnham Company