Yellow Belly Corner is a three-and-a-half storey brick and masonry commercial building with a mid-pitch gable roof, located on the corner of Water Street and George Street in the Water Street National Historic District, St. John’s, NL. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Yellow Belly Corner was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006 because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.
Yellow Belly Corner was likely built for merchant and politician Philip Duggan, who purchased the property in the early 1840s. It is significant as a representation of the mercantile buildings constructed after the Great Fire of 1846. Parts of the structure may date back as far as the mid-eighteenth century, as the post-fire buildings were often constructed around the shell of previous structures. The masonry construction reflects post-1846 building regulations intended to curtail the fires that spread so easily along the crowded wooden buildings near the harbour front. With its stone exterior walls, Yellow Belly Corner was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire of 1892. The building sits at the intersection of Water St. and George Street, which marked the western boundary of the fire’s reaches on Water Street. Fire damage is still visible on some interior beams in the building’s lower levels. Yellow Belly Corner is the cornerstone of the Water Street National Historic District. This district stretches from the Corner to Mahon’s Lane and is the one of the most complete examples of a mid-19th century urban commercial district in Canada.
Yellow Belly Corner’s construction is typical for a vernacular British commercial building in the nineteenth century, with its three-and-a-half storeys, medium-pitch side gable roof, and rectangular window openings. Behind the ashlar and red brick facade, the interior structure is constructed of mixed brick and field stone, a common technique for non-visible parts of a building. An extension on the George Street side of the structure, built in hydrostone, was added in 1901. Like most commercial buildings during the period, the commercial premises were originally located on the first floor and the upper floors served as living quarters.
The building is named for the crossroads on which it sits. In local culture, Yellow Belly Corner was well known in the nineteenth century as a meeting place for various Irish county factions. Popular lore suggests that the Corner was so named for the Wexford immigrants, or “Yellowbellies”, who lived and owned businesses in that part of the commercial district. They made up only one of numerous county-based factions – such as the “Wheybellies” from County Waterford and the “Dadyeens” from County Cork – within the city’s Irish population. Yellow Belly Corner was well known as a meeting place for these Irish factions, and was infamous as the site of mass brawls between the different groups. The building’s name tells the story of the Irish immigrants that swelled the city’s population in the early nineteenth century and of the ties and tensions between these immigrants.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John’s – Yellow Belly Corner – FPT 2713″
Character Defining Elements
All elements that define the building’s mid nineteenth-century commercial design including:
-the line of the original mid pitch gable roof, with end brick and masonry chimneys;
-location of a slight Scotch gable on the George Street gable end;
-mixed field stone and brick construction beneath facade;
-red brick facade, sandstone lintels and sandstone window sills on the Water Street facade;
-rough cut ashlar facade and red brick voussoirs and window surrounds on the George Street gable end;
-storefront on Water St. featuring rectangular windows with base panelling, decorative transoms and a recessed entry;
-original uniform window openings throughout;
-classically inspired doorway framed with a stone pediment and pilasters on the George Street gable end;
-use of traditional building materials throughout the building;
-heavy timber beams supporting building interior;
-original location, dimensions, and height of the building, and;
-proximity to other mid-nineteenth century commercial buildings that make up the Water St. National Historic District.
Location and History
City of St. John's
288 Water Street
1846 - 1846
Rectangular Long Façade