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Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador

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

Formally Recognized: 1989/07/21

Exterior photo of the front facade of the Newfoundland Museum building, Duckworth Street, St. John's; HFNL 2005
Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1892/01/01 to 1893/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/02/15

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador is a large Classical Revival brick and sandstone building located at 285 Duckworth Street, downtown St. John’s. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador was designated a municipal heritage structure because it has aesthetic, historic and cultural values.

The Provincial Museum has aesthetic value because it is architecturally unique in St. John’s. Built in classical revival style, the front façade of the building bears a strong resemblance to the Roman triumphal arch. Two large brick end towers flank the central sandstone arch and frieze, and each tower is topped with a copper roof dome. Each end tower has a series of stone banding, with two bands near the top, one at the middle and one at the bottom. The towers are punctuated by a single window in each and they are decorated with a stone sill and a single stone keystone above each.
More remarkably, the sandstone frieze that graces the front of the building features important icons of Newfoundland’s identity and history. Constructed in England in 1907 the stone components are 8.5m by 2.1m, and occupy pride of place over the lintel of the main doorway. Above the arch and frieze are three side by side windows and above them is a balustrade. The whole effect is a balanced and symmetrical appearance.

The main door has been modernized with glass and metal, but it encompasses the entire stone arch opening with a large half circle window at the top. The archway has a keystone and it features stone supports that span the opening: one horizontal and two vertical.

The Provincial Museum is historically valuable because of its age, having been constructed in 1907. It remains the only public building in the province which features a frieze with original icons of official Newfoundland identity and heritage.

It is also historically valuable because it is the only provincial museum in the province. It preserves, collects and displays artifacts related to the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The central section features the Royal Coat of Arms, sculpted figures and mottos taken from the Grant Seal of Newfoundland. The scene depicts Mercury, God of Trade and Merchandise, presenting to Britannia (representing Britain) a kneeling fisherman offering a catch of newly harvested fish. Britannia also carries a shield embossed with an image of the British flag and a trident. Mercury, in keeping with his role as messenger of the gods and protector of trade and merchants, carries a caduceus, a wand entwined with serpents, capped with wings. This symbolizes commerce, travel and communication.

The mottos are highly significant, “Haec tibi dona fero” (I bring you these gifts), symbolizes the wealth of the fishery resource Newfoundland provided for the British Empire at that time. “Terrae Novae” (for or of Newfoundland) indicates the museum’s role of keeping important items of Newfoundland heritage for the benefit of Newfoundlanders. The complete the picture scenes showing other aspects of Newfoundland’s resource wealth are featured on either side of the central section. To the left is a section devoted to the importance to the lumber industry, while on the right is shown a mining scene. The frieze is devoted to Newfoundland identity and symbolism.

The Provincial Museum has cultural value because it represents the varied and unique cultures of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The museum is the repository of all that is historically and culturally significant to the province and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 Springdale Street, P.O. Box 5171, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5V5, City of St. John's Archives, Railway Coastal Museum, 3rd Floor, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Character-Defining Elements

All original exterior features of Classical Revival Style, including:
-triumphal arch;
-end towers that flank the central arch.

All other exterior features, including:
-brick and various stone materials;
-size, shape, dimensions;
-general massing;
-all window and door openings;
-large glass doors;
-limited number of windows;
-curbside entrance.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

City of St. John's

Recognition Statute

City of St. John's Act

Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type




Architect / Designer

Sir Aston Webb



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.O. Box 1571, 1 Springdale Street, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5, City of St. John's Archives, Railway Coastal Museum, 3rd Floor, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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