Tag Archives: St. John’s

Opera House in St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 26, 1888

Advertisement: The Telegram, St. John’s, July 23, 1888.

There was much excitement in St.  John’s on Thursday, July 26, 1888   with the official opening of a “City Opera House.”

Throughout the week the local newspapers were advertising the highly anticipated opening with bold headlines that proclaimed   “A Grand Artistic Opening.”  The advertisements encouraged residents of St. John’s

“to reserve their tickets during the day, at J.W. Foran’s  Confectionary Store, Atlantic Hotel Building to avoid the crush at the Ticket office.”

The Tickets did not come cheap!!

Admission for Reserved Seats (Dress Circle) 75 cents; Orchestra Chairs, 50 cents; Gallery Chairs, 30 cents; Parquette, 20 Cents  and  the luxury  of a box seat a whopping $6.00.

The proprietor of the Opera House was the St. John’s businessman J.W. Foran who was well established at the J.W. Foran Confectionary Store in the Atlantic Hotel Building.  In his advertisements he stated:

“The proprietor of the city opera house (Mr. J. W. Foran) seeing the great want of a place of musical and dramatic talent, of which the rising generation have not had the advantage of hearing or seeing, has suited the opera house with all modern improvements, suitable for the production of entertainments of the very highest order – thus giving the people o St. John’s an opportunity of hearing some of the best musical talent in America. The establishment of such a space means a very large outlay, and it is to be hoped that the public will give it that substantial support which will warrant its permanency. The season will commence with the famous San Francisco Minstrels”

This talented group from San Francisco was under the management of Charles L. Howard. Engaged for a limited season only, the cost of transportation alone was nearly one thousand dollars. Before each performance, a Grand Balcony Serenade was to be given by the Silver Cornet Band.

Reviews of the performances during the following week stated that the

“minstrel’s are nightly drawing large and respectable audiences. They have advanced considerably in the estimation of our people since their first appearance which did not give the satisfaction anticipated and are steadily increasing in popularity.”

This was the first Opera House in St. John’s, but was not the first opera.

The first opera performed in Newfoundland, Thomas Linley’s The Duenna; or the Double Elopement, was presented in May 20, 1820 as a benefit for the victims of the great fire of 1817.   The Duenna is a three-act comic opera, was considered one of the most successful operas ever staged in England. Lord George Byron called it “the best opera ever written”).

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to look at MG 343.1  the script for Patience: a new & original aesthetic  an opera  written by W.S. Gilbert, Composed by Arthur Sullivan , 12 Apr. 1883. Item consists of Opera that was “given in aid of the poor by a number of amateur ladies and gentlemen at the Star of the Sea Hall, St. John’s”.

Recommended Virtual Exhibit:  How did a young girl from  an outport community on the  northeast coast of  Newfoundland gain  international recognition on  the stages of the world?  http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?lg=English&ex=00000469&fl=0&id=exhibit_home

 

 

 

The Great Fire of 1892: Panel Discussion

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

July 8, 1892   

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B4-49; St. John’s East in ruins folloing the Great Fire. (note the Basilica in the background)

Late in the afternoon of 8 July 1892, a small fire broke out in a St. John’s stable on Freshwater Road after a lit pipe or match fell into a bundle of hay. Although containable at first, the flames quickly spread due to dry weather conditions.  Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost all of St. John’s.

The fire burned into the night and did not end until about 5:30 the following morning.  Many people camped out in Bannerman Park or on property surrounding the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica), which was one of the few buildings the fire did not destroy.

As the sun rose on 9 July, more than two-thirds of St. John’s lay in ruins and 12,000 people were homeless; many had lost everything they owned, except the clothes they were wearing.

One of the accounts written about the fire was penned by W.J. Kent   who wrote:

“All the arteries which led from the water to the higher portions of the town were crowded with the terrorised mob and the screams and cries of the women mingled with the wailing of children, the shouts intensified by the ever-freshening masses of livid fire and the glare of the burning buildings, contributed to make a scene the like of which it is not often given to the lot of many to witness…. Few there were who closed their eyes that night.”

Four persons were burned to death.  The devastation that struck the city was recorded by one of the priests on staff at the R.C. Cathedral (the Basilica) who wrote on Sunday July 10, 1892”

 “There was no publications today in consequence of the great calamity that has happened in our city on Friday evening and night, when the best part of St. John’s east was entirely destroyed by fire which caused such a panic that everyone is excited and frightened and nearly 12, 000 persons are left homeless, over 2000 houses were burned besides stores, wharfs…”

At the Last Mass, Father Scott preached a very touching sermon about the fire and those who were its sufferers from its effects.  Four persons were burned to death, namely:

Mrs. Catherine Stevens    }lived on Meeting House Hill

Her daughter Louisa Stevens

And the servant girl – name not known

Also Miss Catherine Molloy, Bulley’s Lane, and elderly girl not married

RIP

 

The Great Fire of 1892

Rev. Moses Harvey at  St. Andrews Free Presbyterian Church on the day following the fire walked about the city, he presents a similar description of the devastation and plight of the victims of the fire.

“The next morning I took a walk around the awful scene of devastation. It was heart-rending. Nothing visible for a mile from Devon Row but chimneys and fallen and tottering walls. The thick smoke, from the smouldering ruins still filled the air… The wrecks of the fanes of religion stood out, then [sic] broken walls pointing heavenward, as if in mournful protest against the desecration that had been wrought.

And the poor inhabitants, where were they? It made the heart ache to see the groups of men, women and children, with weary, blood-shot eyes and smoke begrimed faces, standing over their scraps of furniture and clothing — some of them asleep on the ground from utter exhaustion — all with despondency depicted on their faces. They filled the park and grounds around the city. Many hundreds escaped with nothing but the clothes they wore… .”

Presentation: The history and consequences of the Great Fire 
Location: The Rooms,Theatre
Date: Sunday, July 9, 2017
Time: 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Cost: Included with the cost of admission

Join panelists Larry Dohey, Emily Campbell, Charles Henley, and moderator Jason Sellars for a lively discussion of the history and consequences of the Great Fire of 1892. Stay after the discussion for an interactive imagination session in partnership with the City of St. John’s and The Rooms.

 

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type “Great Fire” 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

 

 

Mysterious Iceberg off St. John’s

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 24, 1905

“Our Lady of the Fjords”

Mysterious Iceberg in St. John’s Narrows, T.B. Hayward. June 24, 1905

On  June 24, 1905 T.B. Hayward a St. John’s artist and photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the Narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Christian presence.

The photograph in ques­tion depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John’s. How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown. The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes. His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop, in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, who saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he com­posed a sonnet in honour of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords.” In the sonnet, he refers to the glistening ice figure as “a shimmering shrine – our bright Atlantic Lourdes. The sonnet was published Newfoundland Quarterly in 1909.

Our Lady of the Fjords

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.” Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book  Baltimore’s Mansion.

The timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition appearing in the St. John’s Narrows  was quite  significant.

June 24 on the Christian calendar is the Feast of St. John the Baptist.   On June 24, 1497  John Cabot “discovered”  Newfoundland,  it is the feast day of the patron saint of the R.C. Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral  in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? The Rooms has hundreds of photographs of icebergs. Type “iceberg” 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:   Kodak Catholicism: Miraculous Photography and its Significance by Jessy C. PAGLIAROLI : Canadian Catholic Historical  Association (CCHA) , Historical Studies, 70 (2004), 71_93

Recommended Archival Collection:  Very few photographs of Thomas B. Hayward have been identified.  If you are aware of other photographs and sketches created by Thomas or his father J. W Hayward the  Rooms Provincial Archives Division would love to hear from you.

The crowded sidewalks of St. John’s

Archival Moments

15 May 1879

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John's, looking east.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John’s, looking east.

On May 15, 1879 the Colonial Government of Newfoundland declared that they had had enough of the businessmen on Water Street obstructing the natural flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of the historic street. It appears that the businessmen were hindering traffic by placing their wares in “boxes, barrels, and packages”   on the sidewalks.

To show that they saw this as a very serious matter, constables dragged before the Police Court in St. John’s “forty two (42) representatives of the business houses on Water Street.” The parade of businessmen to the Police Court included according to the local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, “men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country.”

The Telegram continued:

“It was certainly unique to see so many of our leading civilians arraigned at the bar of justice, and we must confess that our feelings were truly indescribable when we entered the court room and glanced around.”

The Evening Telegram reporter seemed to be enjoying the spectacle observing with some embellishment that:

“There they were, men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country, philanthropists, merchant princes and politicians of the first order; constrained by the omnipotent mandate of the presiding genius of the magisterial bureau. In short they were there on a charge of violation of the following the Municipal Regulations Act.”

The particular act that they were dragged before the courts to answer too was the regulation or act that read:

“Any person who shall place or deposit on any sidewalk in any of the said places, except in transit, any boxes, barrels, packages, or any other matter or thing, so as to obstruct free passage on the said side walk, shall for very offence forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding twenty five dollars.”

Water Street, St. John’s was the hub of the cultural, social and economic activity in St. John’s in the 18th – 20th century.

In 1877, just two years before this mass arrest of the business leaders of St. John’s, Rochfort’s Business Directory, the “Business and General Directory Containing Classified Lists of Business Men of St. John’s” gave a detailed listing of all trades on Water Street and reported that there were on the historic street many different kinds of enterprises.

Some of the businesses on the historic street included: 3 Photographic studios, 8 Auctioneering houses, 4 Bakeries, 2 Blacksmiths, 3 Boarding houses, 15 Boot and Shoe Makers, 15 Butcher Shops, 3 China and Glassware Dealers, 4 Confectioners, 2 Coopers, 2 Dentists, 1 Distiller, 28 Drapers, 2 Engineers, 2 Furniture Dealers, 31 Grocers, 3 Hairdressers, 3 Harness Makers, 11 Hardware Dealers, 2 Hotels, 2 Joiners, 3 Leatherware Dealers, 4 Lumber Merchants, 32 General Merchants, 6 Millinery, I Painter, 2 Plumbers, 2 Pump and Lock Makers, 6 Stationers, 1 Stonemason, 19 Tailors, 7 Tin, Sheet and Iron and Copper Workers, 8 Watchmakers, and 50 Wine and Spirit Retail Stores.

With so many businesses being located on Water Street vying for the attention of the same customers it was not surprising that they should position their products on the sidewalks to try and lore customers into their shops!!

Do you have any problems navigating the sidewalks in St. John’s?

Archival Collection: Type  Water Street  in the key word search bar of :  http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?ClientSession=16a80abc:154b2cdf7b9:-7fd2&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355

Recommended Archival Collection: City and Town Directories held in archives give incredible insights into the business life of Newfoundland communities. A few of the directories that should be consulted when doing research are Hutchinson’s Directory of Newfoundland (1864); Lovell’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); McAlpine’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); and Rochfort’s Directory of Newfoundland (1877).

Recommended Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Newfoundland Mustang the First

Archival Moment

April 17, 1964

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

Stanley Tucker with the first Mustang at Signal Hill.

There was a bit of excitement at George Parson’s Ford dealership in St. Johns on April 17, 1964, a crowd of people were at the dealership looking at a Wimbledon White convertible with the 260 cubic-inch V-8, it was the first time that any of them had seen a Mustang.

In the crowd was Stanley Tucker, an airline captain with Eastern Provincial Airlines (EPA)  based out of St. Johns.  Tucker, fell in love with the car and told George Parsons dealership agent Harry Philips  he wanted to buy that Mustang. Philips originally hesitated wanting to hold on to the car to get a little more publicity out of it. When Tucker came with a check in hand the next day, Parson’s sold the car to Captain Tucker.

Tucker at the time did not know it but  he had unknowingly purchased Mustang #1, the very first Mustang off the assembly line.  In an interview with Mustang Monthly Magazine years later Tucker said:

 “For a long time, I was the only Mustanger in Newfoundland. It was quite an experience. Many times, other motorists would force me to the side of the road and ask me about the car – what it was, who made it, how did I like it and how much did it cost? The car has been a real joy to own and drive. Getting into it is something like slipping into the cockpit, and I feel as much a part of the machine as I do when I’m flying.”

Not long after Tucker unknowingly purchased the now-historic car, representatives from Ford learned that their Canadian promotional vehicle, the first-ever Mustang, had been let loose. Ford wanted the car back, but Tucker wanted to drive it. Tucker drove the car about St. John’s for nearly two years, putting 10,633 miles on the odometer.

Meanwhile, Mustang sales blossomed. Before Mustang, Falcon held the Ford record of building a million vehicles in two years, 16 days. Mustang broke that record by reaching the million mark in one year, 11 months, and 24 days.

As Ford prepared for the millionth Mustang celebration, a Ford official made Captain Tucker an offer: In exchange for the first Mustang, Ford would trade the millionth Mustang. At the millionth Mustang celebration in Dearborn, Michigan on March 2, 1966, Tucker stood at the end of the assembly line with a Ford executive and accepted his new car.

While Tucker posed with the millionth Mustang, a white convertible, he didn’t actually receive that car. Tucker had earlier placed an order with George Parson’s Ford in St. Johns for a 1966 Silver Frost convertible with a black top.

Meanwhile, the white Mustang #1 with VIN 5F08F100001 once again became property of Ford Motor Company. The Mustang that only knew Newfoundland roads is now at home in the Henry Ford Museum.  In 1987, the car went on permanent display in the “Automobiles in American Life” exhibit, still sporting the 1965 Newfoundland and Labrador license plates.

Archival Hint:  Did you know that when trying to date a photograph  often one of the factors considered is the age of the cars that appear in the photographs.  Most archives have access to car experts  – antique dealers  – that help in the dating process.

Killer avalanche hits Tilt Cove

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 11, 1912

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. VA 85-55: Tilt Cove

On March 11, 1912 an avalanche struck the mining community of Tilt Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula. The avalanche struck two houses built at the head of the cove at the foot of a steep slope, one belonging to Mr. Francis Williams, manager of the Cape Copper Company, and the other belonging to a Mr. William Cunningham, JP, the telegrapher and customs officer.

William Cunningham’s daughter, Vera, was interviewed in 1996 – she was 95 at the time but vividly remembered life in Tilt Cove, and in particular the afternoon of March 11 1912. She recalled that the previous night, following a day of freezing rain a snow storm raged and this continued through the day. Her father came in for tea and said, prophetically, “this would be a great night for snow-sliding“.

Next door the Williams family was sitting down to tea, when a large avalanche swept down the slope and struck the Williams and Cunningham houses. The avalanche just glanced Doctor Smith’s house, which escaped with minor damage.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Smith Family Collection: A 24-98.

The Williams house was  the most severely damaged, with the lower floor collapsing as the rear wall was staved in. The Cunningham house was swept off its foundation and Emily Day the family servant thrown across the kitchen and buried. She had three year-old Edward Cunningham in her arms and protected him against the weight of the snow. Unfortunately she was buried, jammed against the hot kitchen stove, by the time she was dug out,  two hours later, she was very severely burnt. Edward was only slightly injured with minor burns.  Her loving embrace had saved his life.

Emily survived but was badly hurt; she was sent to hospital in St. John’s but died on July 18. A headstone erected in her memory in the Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road, St. John’s reads:

“Emily Day, aged 29 years who died July 18, 1912 from injuries  received  while saving the life of a child in the Tilt Cove Avalanche.  Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”

The rest of the family survived almost unscathed.

Mr. Williams and his 13-year-old son (James) were killed instantly. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported, “the little boy was found dead with bread still in his mouth“. Peter and Francis Sage the two servants in the Williams household were also killed. Mrs. Williams and her two daughters were rescued after three and a half hours of burial, without serious injury.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives  is home  to a number of photographs detailing life in the mining community of  Tilt Cove can be found as well as occasional mining reports on the state and prospects for  mining in Tilt Cove.

Recommended Web Sites: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/environment/avalanches.html

http://www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/mines/outreach/disasters/avalanches/march11_12.html

Recommended Reading:  Killer Snow, Avalanches in Newfoundland by David Liverman., Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2007.

No flying saucers in Victoria Park

Archival Moment

February 1916

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

City outlaws crazy carpets and flying saucers.

Signage declaring new regulations about sliding on the hills in St. John’s has been posted in public places throughout the city. The signage declares a whole raft of rules about what can and cannot be done when snow sliding.

Some think that this is a new  conversation, but the reality is that regulations about snow sliding or sledding in St. John’s started 100 years ago.

In 1916 “skating or sliding down the hills” was on the agenda of Newfoundland legislators, so much so  that the lawmakers opted to pass legislation about sliding.

In Chapter 51 of the Consolidated Acts, 1916 under the chapter title “Of Nuisances and Municipal Regulations” Section 14 the Act reads:

“The stipendiary magistrate may make regulations for preventing persons from coasting, skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets …”

The focus of the legislation in 1916 was on the  “… skating or sliding down the hills or highways or streets…”  

There was a time when the ‘townies’ loved nothing more than grabbing their sleigh for a ride down of the steep hills of the city. The practice was however quite dangerous.

The local newspapers reported on an almost daily basis about individuals being injured on the hills of the town.

On January 14, 1916 the Evening Telegram reported:

“Boy Injured while sliding over Prescott Street”  Yesterday after noon,  newsboy met with a painful accident. He collided with another sled resulting in a deep wound being inflicted in his leg. The injured youth was brought to a nearby drug store for treatment and was later conveyed home and attended by a doctor. “

On February 18, 1916 under the headline “Dangerous practice the sliding of children” the Telegram reported:

“The sliding of children on the city heights is a very dangerous practice particularly on those hills near the street car rails. This morning two children of Hutching’s Street narrowly escaped being killed by a passing street car. The sled on which the youngsters were seated passing in front of the car’s fender by a couple of feet. “

The new signage posted on St. John’s hills and parks  (including Victoria Park) owned by the city comes after the city of St. John’s had to review  its liability in the wake of the city of Hamilton, Ontario being sued following an injury at a popular sledding hill . The City of Sudbury, Ontario in response to the same lawsuit responded by fencing off a sliding hill and banning tobogganing on public land outright.

Almost 100 years following the initial conversation about snow sliding on the hills of St. John’s the conversation continues. The warning signs in Victoria Park read no  “crazy carpets and flying saucers.”

Learn more about Victoria Park, St. John’s: Read More:

Learn more about Victoria Park:  https://www.facebook.com/VPRenewal/

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives. The consolidated statutes of Newfoundland : being a consolidation of the statute law of the colony down to and including the session of the Legislature in the year 1916 / printed and published by and under the authority of the Governor in Council, and proclaimed under the authority of the Act 9 and 10, George V., cap. X., 1918.