Tag Archives: Colonial Building

Newfoundland Prime Minister Escapes Riot


April 5, 1932


Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 2-167; A boy removes heater during the riot at the Colonial Building

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 2-167; Two boys remove a  heater during the riot at the Colonial Building. April 5, 1932.

On (April 5, 1932) a crowd gathered in front of the Colonial Building on Military Road, St. John’s to express their concern and displeasure with the manner in which the Richard Squires’ Government was administering the affairs of the Colony.

In 1932, Squires’ finance minister, Peter John Cashin, resigned from the executive council accusing his fellow cabinet ministers of widespread corruption and Squires himself of having falsified council minutes to hide the fact that he had been receiving secret payments out of public funds. Cashin’s charge inflamed a public which had already been seized by discontent due to the deteriorating economic situation in the province.

What had begun as a peaceful demonstration had quickly escalated to a full scale riot. Every window in the building was beaten out; furniture was dragged from the Colonial Building and destroyed on the grounds, and the members of the Government, who were still inside the Building, feared for their lives. The Police responded to the mob with more violence, beating back the rioters with their batons.

The Prime Minister, Sir Richard Squires, barely escaped the building. Though accounts of his escape vary, it seems that he waited until 7:30 that evening when the mob had quieted down and exited the building by the front door to make his way to a waiting car.

Some of the rioters still lingered in the area, and upon recognizing the Prime Minister making his escape, they charged at him and he had to rush into a house on Colonial Street.

Clergy from churches in the area were called; they stood on the steps of the house on Colonial Street exhorting the men to return to their homes. The rioters pursued Prime Minister Squires into the residence, but by the time they had gained entry he had made his escape through the back door.

The result of the riot was a tremendous amount of damage to the Colonial Building, at an estimated cost of $10,000, not to mention the numerous personal injuries which were suffered in the affray.

From 1850 to 1959, the Colonial Building was witness to Newfoundland’s unique political story – from colony to nationhood, from nationhood to the suspension of democracy during the Commission of Government years, and onwards to provincial status within Canada.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives has a small collection of photographs taken during the riot.

Recommended Museum Visit:  At The Rooms Provincial Museum visit the exhibit ‘Here, We Made a Home’ in The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. This exhibit highlights some of the events associated with the political history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/colonial/default.html


“Journalists and their discreditable doings”

Archival Moment

March 14, 1881

The political reporters that now cover the news at the Confederation Building do so only after considerable thought and reflection on the discussions that they hear in the legislature. It was not always so!!

In March 9,  1881, John Rorke  Sr., a member of the Executive Council (Cabinet) in in the William Whiteway Government lashed out at reporters for the:

disagreeable manner in which the Reporters furnish (report on) the debates of the Assembly, causing much complaint and dissatisfaction, even to both sides of the House.”

Rorke and other members of the House of the Assembly, located in the Colonial Building on Military Road, St. John’s were suggesting that the bias of the reporters and their newspaper editors was the news.

At the time St. John’s boasted a number of daily newspapers including, Newfoundland’s first newspaper The Royal Gazette, (1807 – 18??), the Morning Chronicle, (1862-1881), The Newfoundlander (1827 -1884), The Ledger (1875 -1882) and The Evening Telegram (1879 – present).  Each was trying to carve out their own readership and in the 1880’s they took some very definite Editorial positions.

In the 1880’s the two big “editorial” discussions in Newfoundland were about Confederation with Canada and support for a railway.

The Morning Chronicle was the principal anti-Confederate newspaper; The Newfoundlander was the principal Confederate newspaper and enthusiastically supported the railway.

The Editors did not mince words, one Canadian Editor wrote about the Editor of the Evening Telegram in a most unflattering manner. He wrote:

“Canada has one determined enemy. He lives down at Newfoundland in the City of St. John’s. He is the editor of the Telegram, that humorously ill-natured sheet, which, as we once before pointed out, has abused everything in Newfoundland that was good for the Island.”

The editor of the  Evening Telegram  referred to another Editor as  “as a vile ingrate and unworthy of the countenance of any political party”

Journalists drinking and playing cards in the " Reporters Room" in the Colonial Building.

Journalists drinking and playing cards in the ” Reporters Room” in the Colonial Building.

As the Editors sniped at each other the reporters in The Reporter’s Room, located in the basement of the Colonial Building were often distracted from their journalistic calling.  In a letter to the St. John’s paper the Evening Telegram, on March 14  one  ‘Eye Witness‘ to the shenanigans of the Reporters  wrote:

“Now, Mr. Editor can this be wondered at when it is well known that the Reporters Room has been used, not so much for quietness, in getting up their reports, as for smoking, drinking and card playing, “draw poker” in particular, some members of the Assembly and even outsiders, entering into the spirit of such doings”

Imagine the shock to the public to discover that the Reporters Room in the basement of the House of Assembly in the Colonial Building was being used for “smoking, drinking and card playing…”

What were these journalistic thinking?

Why is there no ‘Reporters Room’ in the Confederation Building ?

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division holds microfilm copies of over 30 Newfoundland and Labrador newspapers dating from 1810 – 1982.  See also  The Historical Directory of Newfoundland and Labrador Newspapers 1807 – 1996.

Recommended Websitehttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/colonial/default.html

Recommended Museum Visit:  At The Rooms Provincial Museum visit the exhibit ‘Here, We Made a Home’ in The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. This exhibit highlights some of the events associated with the political history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Art, Forgery and Prison Romance


June 15, 1880

Hall Ceiling Painted by Pindkowsky, Government House

On June 17, 1880, the Carbonear Herald a local Newfoundland newspaper reported on the conviction of  Alexander Pindikowsky, a young artist and fresco painter, convicted for forgery. He was sentenced on June 15, 1880 to fifteen months at her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Royal Gazette reported:

 “Pindinkowsky was ordered within five days of his release to quit the country (Newfoundland) for life, in default of which, on his return to the country at any time, he is to receive further imprisonment.”

Pindikowsky  (also Pindikowskie) arrived in Newfoundland in 1879 as a professional artist and fresco painter. He was hired by the Anglo American Telegraph Company to give art instruction to interested employees and their wives at Hearts Content Cable Office.

He was arrested on March 10, 1880 and charged with attempting forge two cheques in the name of E. Weedon, Esq. of Hearts Content, Trinity Bay.

The Polish artist’s talents as a fresco painter were brought to the attention of the authorities at the Penitentiary and they were soon put to official use, in return for a remission of five weeks on his sentence. He was set to work designing and painting frescos, to relieve the drabness of the state rooms of Government House.

Governor John Hawley Glover (1876-1885) was so delighted with the frescos that he suggested to Prime Minister William Whiteway that the prisoner Pindinkowsky also decorate the ceilings of the two legislative chambers of the Colonial Building.  Seeing an opportunity the Presentation Sisters at Cathedral Square in St. John’s who were in the process of working on their chapel and drawing room invited the talents of the young artist.

Each day Pindinowsky was brought from the penitentiary to his place of work until the frescos were complete.

It could be said that this is one of the first documented cases of  a prison rehabilitation program in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Researcher and historian, John O’Mara in his research on Government House in St. John’s discovered that Pindikowsky was also a romantic. In his research he discovered the face of a woman subtly painted into the ceiling of government house.  Some believe her to be one of the maids at government house.  She could possibly be Ellen Dormody the mother of Pindikowsky’s first child, Johanna Mary Ellen Pindikowskie, who was baptized at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) on May 1, 1882.

It is clear that Pindikowsky banishment from the country was withdrawn, he decided to stay in Newfoundland. In 1882 he was advertising his services in a local newspaper, as a fresco painter.

The Athenaeum, established in 1879 with it’s 1,000 seat theatre, that was central to much of the musical activity of the city hired him. He painted some very fine murals on the interior walls of the building. Unfortunately the theatre and his work were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892.

Pindikowsky left St. John’s for the ‘Boston States’ in approximately 1882  followed a year later by Ellen Dormody. She is recorded as travelling from St. John’s to Boston on the SS Colan (or Coban) in 1883.

Life in Boston was unsettled they fist settled in Malden, Mass in 1885 where he is listed in the city directory as a painter then Brockton, Mass, in the city directories of 1887, 1888 and 1889, back to Malden for 1890, then in Newport, RI where he was listed in the city directory as a painter in 1897 and later back in Brockton, Mass.

It appears that he died between 1887 -1906.  His wife is listed in the  Brockton city directory as a nurse and a widow in 1906.

Ellen Dormody the wife of Pindikowsky would have felt very at home in the Boston area. The Commonwealth of Boston census for 1885 reports that 2851 Newfoundlanders had settled in the city and surrounding towns. That number had grown to 7,591 Newfoundlanders by 1895.  The census for Boston in 1915 reports that 13,269 residents of the Boston area claimed Newfoundland  as their place of birth.

The ‘Boston States’ and  Newfoundland  have many connections.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Government House Interior in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Art, Love and Savagery: Carolyn Moran. Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2016.

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/govhouse/govhouse/tour2.html

Recommended VisitTo see the work of Alexander Pindikowsky both Government House and Presentation Convent are available to the public by appointment.  The Colonial Building is undergoing extensive renovations and is closed.


“Genealogy, sex, …. and the place of archives.“

Archival Moment

January 16, 1888

newfoundland-bookIt has long been recognized that people are passionate about their family and their family origins, in fact genealogy is considered one of the most popular hobbies in the world.

Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. It’s a billion-dollar industry that has spawned profitable websites, television shows, scores of books and — with the advent of over-the-counter genetictest kits — a cottage industry in DNA ancestry testing.

There was a time in Newfoundland when genealogists were frustrated; there were no official institutions in place to help them to build a family tree. One of the first residents of the colony (now province) to recognize this reality was James Murray a St. John’s, Water Street merchant.  In January 1888 Murray wrote to the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram:

“I cannot but express my regret; even at this late day, no effective steps have yet been taken in this colony by which genealogical records may be kept in a public, official and systematic way. As we may fairly assume that the colony has now a definite future before it, I think that no further time should be lost in supplying this lack of vital statistics, the last, but not least, distinguishing mark of civilization.”

Another decade was to pass before the recommendations of Murray were to be heeded. Civil registration started in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1891. Beginning at that time, all clergy were required to register with the government, all baptisms, marriages and burials conducted within their jurisdiction. Prior to 1891, no such central registry existed, so the only records of baptism, marriage or burial were the ones held by the churches.

It was not until 1956 that a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York allowed a group of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland to begin to collect organize and describe various collections of historic government records which included marriage, birth and death registers.

In 1959 the Provincial Government of Newfoundland  passed the Historic Objects, Sites and Records Act which established the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). At that point the records were transferred to PANL located in the Colonial Building on Military Road.

In 2005 the Provincial Archives Division was established in The Rooms.

It was ironic that Murray who was so passionate about keeping records in a “public, official and systematic way’ in the Great Fire of 1892, which razed much of St. John’s, lost all that was dear to him.  While the Murray premises were spared, the records (that he held so dear) were destroyed when the safe in which they were stored was opened too quickly after the conflagration.

Recommended Archives: Contact the Rooms Provincial Archives at (709) 757-8088  or archives@therooms.ca

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/genealogy-research

Recommended Reading:  Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland E.R. Seary (Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1976). Corrected edition by William J. Kirwin. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1998

The foundation for The Rooms Provincial Archives


March 10, 1879

The Rooms – Home to the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labardor

The idea of an archive to house the history of this  province of Newfoundland and Labrador  (then a colony) was first suggested in March 1879.

On March 10, 1879 the editor of the St. John’s newspaper “The Temperance Journal” wrote

“let us have a bureau of history and statistics, where files of all our local newspapers shall be kept throughout the year for reference and then bound in yearly volumes. Where tables of our imports and exports, shipping, agriculture, and mines shall be kept, where meterorological registrations, and registers of births, marriages and deaths shall be kept.”

The Editor had some very definite ideas including suggesting a budget.  He wrote

“Cost not to exceed three hundred per annum, including office rent, and everything.”

He also had some very particular ideas about the salary of the person who would take on the position. The Editor wrote

“Application for any “rise” on the part of the incumbent to be equivalent to instant dismissal.”

It would be some time before the voice of this local newspaper Editor would be heard. The responsibility for the safekeeping of these records was not delegated until 1898 when responsibility was given to the Colonial Secretary.

It was not until 1956 that a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of New York allowed a group of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland to begin to collect, organize and describe various collections of historic government records.

In 1959 the Provincial Government passed the Historic Objects, Sites and Records Act which established the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). At that point the records were transferred to PANL  located in theColonialBuilding onMilitary Road.

In 2005 the Provincial Archives Division was established in The Rooms.

Recommended Arccival Collection: From the luxury of your home explore some of the archival collections that are held at The Rooms Provincial Archhives.  Read More:  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/  

(Thank you to the 22,285 visitors that came to www.archivalmoments.ca  in February. I am happy to hear that you read and enjoyed the postings.  The site is now averaging 796 visitors per day.  Encourage your friends and colleagues to take a look.  Let’s celebrate our history and culture. You can follow ‘Archival Moments’ on Twitter @LarryDohey)





The ‘Carpet Question’ and the Colonial Building

January 9, 1888

Archival Moment

The Carpet Question?    Carpet missing from the Colonial Building.

The Carpet Question?
Carpet missing from the Colonial Building.

The Colonial Building, Military Road, St. John’s is arguably the most significant historic building in the province.

At the official opening of the Colonial Building on January 28th, 1850, Governor Sir John Gaspard  LeMarchant  stated it was, “dedicated to the future advancement and well-being of the country, a building which from its magnificence and extent will henceforth invest our legislature with and additional degree of interest and veneration.”

The Colonial Building has had a storied history, if the walls could speak, they would tell us of events such as Newfoundland gaining Responsible Government in 1855, the Riots of 1932 that saw Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires hiding from the mob. It was the building that was a witness to the  national Convention debates that saw the Dominion of Newfoundland  dragged into Confederation.

After Confederation in 1949, the Colonial Building was the seat of the Provincial Legislature until the Confederation Building opened in 1959.

The Colonial Building was also in the eye of the storm because of less significant incidents.

In early January 1888 the talk in the town of St. John’s and throughout the province was all about a carpet, not you’re run of the mill carpet, the talk was about a very expensive carpet allegedly stolen from the ‘Colonial Building.’

The government of the day (Premier Robert Thorburn) had purchased the carpet at the great expense of $300.00 (three hundred dollars) a carpet that was put down on the Assembly Chamber in the Colonial Building the year previous. In today’s currency the carpet would cost approximately $7,000.00 dollars. It would have been a large carpet, the Assembly Chamber is a substantial room measuring  29’6” X 49’.

The editor of the local newspaper the Evening Telegram was furious. Where was the carpet? Why was there no one in the government concerned about the missing carpet? The Editor boldly suggested that the government of the Colony of Newfoundland was holding a double standard.  He wrote:

Why should the poor fisherman be sentenced to 30 days imprisonment with hard labour for stealing a tam o’ shanter cup worth only 25 cents while a sleek and well paid government official is allowed to steal valuable property from the people’s house with the utmost impunity!”

The newspaper refused to let go of the issue and soon discovered that not only was one of the carpets stolen but also “it will be necessary to talk about the valuable windows hangings stolen from the Clerk’s Office and the chairs and the desk spirited away from the Assembly Chamber ..”

The ‘Carpet Question’ was never resolved. Mr. Richard Holden the Assistant Clerk for the House of Assembly was the only person who offered any comment on the missing carpet suggesting that the government  “says they are not going to have any carpet on the Assembly Room next season, but are going to have the floor painted in squares as a chess board.”

Currently the Colonial Building is closed for interior and exterior renovations and is slated to re-open in  late 2015 with a restored interior, exterior and new exhibits to bring to life the people and political events of our past.  It will be the home of our political history.

Alas, the interior will not feature the ornate carpet, the valuable windows hangings stolen from the Clerk’s Office and the chairs and the desk.

Have you seen this carpet? Will the floors be painted in squares as a chess board?

Lost phrase:  “tam o’ shanter cup” associated with the Scottish tradition, a cup that was stolen that may have been a trophy cup.  (Love to hear from you on this!)

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/colonial/default.html

Recommended Museum Visit:  At The Rooms Provincial Museum visit the exhibit ‘Here, We Made a Home’ in The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. This exhibit highlights some of the events associated with the political history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Howard Brown: “He was always there, constant as the tides.”

Howard Brown 1945 - 2014

Howard Brown
1945 – 2014

The archival community of Newfoundland and Labrador was saddened to learn last evening of the passing our friend and colleague Howard Brown. His colleagues at The Rooms Provincial Archives extend their condolences to Howard’s family.

Greg Walsh, the Director of The Rooms Provincial Archives in a memo to staff said: “Howard as the long-time Manuscript Archivist worked with many of our current staff and researchers and was responsible for the initial acquisition and preliminary work with many of the most important collections we now hold.  He will be remembered for his service to Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives (ANLA) as long-time treasurer and for his passion for discovering and uncovering gems of Newfoundland and Labrador history within our holdings.”

Howard retired in February 1999 but maintained his ties to the ‘archival community’ with regular visits to the Rooms Provincial Archives as a researcher. His passion for all that he loved about Newfoundland and Labrador he expressed in his contributions to such publications as the Ancestor ( a publication  of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador) and The Shoreline News, his community newspaper.

Melanie Tucker, Reference and Access Archivists at the Rooms Provincial Archives said  Howard’s “dropping by to research the next article, to pay into his lotto fund or just to catch up with ‘the crowd’, always wanting to hear that everyone was doing well. I don’t think any of us realized until now how much his presence meant and how his visits kept us anchored to our archival roots.”

Brown, Howard Cecil (Obituary)

October 25, 1945 – January 8, 2014  

With a strong sense of loss and gratitude we announce the passing of Howard Brown. Loss because he was so loved by so many, gratitude because of the life he lived.

Leaving to mourn and to celebrate are his wife Valerie, his daughters, Michelle (Dean Barnes) and Heather (Matt Appleby), his grandsons Matthew and John, brother Rex (Elaine), sisters Barbara and Brenda (Bob Helleur); nieces Jill and Janine, nephews Ben and Jim, mother-in-law, Theresa Hibbs, Valerie’s brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, Aunts Bea, Gladys and Molly (nee Brown) and June (nee Butler), many cousins and a wide circle of family and friends.

Howard’s life had two distinct phases: Tack’s Beach until he was resettled at age twenty-one and Topsail where he settled and resided since 1966. Howard fully embraced both communities and nurtured both to the full extent of his resources, mind and body. His love for inner Placentia Bay was a life long one and he came to love Topsail where his roots ran deep. His writings reflect some of his passion for his place in his Newfoundland.

Howard’s love for his two daughters and two grandsons was unqualified, a love he shared with Valerie. Howard’s loyalty to his parents, Cecil and Maude and siblings all could count upon. He was always there, constant as the tides. Howard’s approach to life was moulded by the knowledge that doctors had told his mother he couldn’t live to six months. He was glad to prove their assessment flawed. He glorified in everything life offered and when Valerie and Shelley, Heather, Matthew and John came along his cup ran fuller than even he in his optimism could ever have imagined. He was a happy man.

An inspiration to all who knew him, left now to mourn and celebrate. Resting at Carnell’s Funeral home, 1045 Topsail Road. Family and friends may visit on Friday January 10th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday January 11th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Funeral Service will take place from St. John The Evangelist Church in Topsail on Saturday January 11th at 2:00 p.m. Interment will follow at St. John the Evangelist cemetery in Topsail.

No flowers by Howard’s request. Donations may be made to the Old Church, St. John the Evangelist, Topsail or the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre.


Lovers and fighters in Bannerman Park

Archival Moment

July 8, 1879

86715680_640Bannerman Park, located on the north side of Military Road, St. John’s  next to Government House and the Colonial Building has long been the home to  many events some planned some quite spontaneous. A place for lovers and fighters!

On the night of July 8, 1879 three young lads decided they were going to resolve their differences with a round of ‘fist a cuffs’ in the park.

A member of the constabulary walking about the city on his rounds was not amused that the “young lads” were up to their shenanigans. He was particularly not happy that they were causing the disturbance at 11:30 at night!!

The next morning the three lads found themselves in the docket before Judge Henry Renouf.

The St. John’s newspaper ‘The Telegram’ reported that the three were charged with practicing “the noble art of self-defense.”

They were cautioned and discharged.

Bannerman Park is however best known as scenic setting for courting lovers in St. John’s.

In 1947, Douglas Black, a sailor on the Royal British Navy vessel HMS Sheffield, arrived in St. John’s. Walking through Bannerman Park, he met 17 year-old Adelaide Byrne of Placentia Bay, who had also just arrived in the city. During the ship’s ten days in port, the two regularly met Bannerman Park before eventually losing touch after the ship’s departure. In 1990, 70 year-old Douglas Black placed a letter in The Evening Telegram, hoping to find Ms. Byrne once again. The letter reached her brother, who informed him that, sadly, Adelaide had died of tuberculosis two years after his ship left St. John’s

Bannerman Park takes its name for Governor Alexander Bannerman, who in 1864, donated land in the vicinity of Government House for a public park for the use and enjoyment of the citizens of St. John’s.

In April 1887 city officials began to seriously consider what to do with the land that had been left by Governor Bannerman.   In 1891, the City of St. John’s funded the design and development of the Park as a formal Victorian Garden.

The rest is history evolving.

Recommended Reading: Stories About Bannerman Park: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/stories/

Recommended Action:  Support the Garden of Memories in Bannerman Park:  People who enjoy the park can contribute to the park‘s revitalization through by sponsoring various fixtures, flower gardens, and commemorative granite stones, which will be used for the pathways in the Garden. For more information: http://www.bannermanpark.ca/the-garden-of-memories-open-to-the-public/

Do you have a story to tell about Bannerman Park?