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St. Michael's Orphanage/ Belvedere Municipal Heritage Building

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1999/11/08

View of main facade, facing south.  St. Michael's Orphanage (Belvedere Orphanage). Photo taken 2005.; HFNL 2007
Belvedere Orphanage, St. John's
Detail of Mansard-style capped tower on rear facade, St. Michael's Orphanage (Belvedere Orphanage), facing north.  All trims are cast iron.  Photo taken 2005.; HFNL 2007
Belvedere Orphanage, detail
View of rear facade showing the capped tower.  This side facing north.  Photo taken 2005.; HFNL 2007
Rear facade, St. Michael's Orphanage

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1884/01/01 to 1885/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/11/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

St. Michael's Orphanage is a four-storey, Second Empire style, brick building. Built 1884-1885, the building is located off Bonaventure Avenue in St. John’s in an area once known as Belvedere. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

St. Michael's Orphanage is designated as a municipal heritage buiding due to its architectural and historic values.

St. Michael's Orphanage is architecturally valuable as an excellent example of the Second Empire style employed in an institutional building. Furthermore, St. Michael's Orphanage is, along with the Benevolent Irish Society, the only surviving Second Empire masonry institutional building in Newfoundland. St. Michael's Orphanage is a four storey building with a central tower and ornate detailing in the trim. The window hoods in this building are the most important architectural feature of the building both for their rarity and their detailing. Made of cast iron, the window hoods on the first floor are different from those on the second floor. Other intricate Second Empire details include quoining, hooded dormers and elaborate eaves brackets.

St. Michael's Orphanage is also architecturally valuable for its association with Bishop M. F. Howley. Howley is associated with designing a number of ecclesiastical buildings in St. John’s, but St. Michael's Orphanage is likely the last remaining of these buildings.

St. Michael's Orphanage was built in 1885 to meet the demands for an orphanage for young girls. St. Michael's Orphanage was run by the Sisters of Mercy and is historically valuable for its association with this order. This Order was formed in Dublin in 1831 by Sister Catherine McAuley. The Sisters of Mercy have made a very important contribution to the community of St. John’s through their work in various fields. The Mercy Sisters are known for their work in health care at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, as well as their work with the elderly at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home, and especially their work in education. St. Michael's Orphanage serves as a reminder of the community work of the Sisters of Mercy.

Source: City of St. John's, meeting held November 8, 1999

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that are representative of the building's age, construction and design in the Second Empire style, including:
-mansard roof, eaves brackets, dormers;
-ornate cast iron window hoods;
-central tower with mansard roof;
-original porch with pedimented entrance;
-arched windows in central tower;
-brick construction;
-window size and placement; and,
-building height, size, and massing.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

City of St. John's

Recognition Statute

City of St. John's Development Regulations

Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Office or office building


Group Residence

Architect / Designer

Howley, Micheal Francis



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 Springdale Street, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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