Description of Historic Place
138-142 Richmond Street is located in the western most section of the Cameron Block, which is a large Italianate influenced, stone and brick commercial building. The Cameron Block is part of "Victoria Row", a collection of Victorian buildings in a historically commercial section of Richmond Street. The area now features outdoor cafes, gift shops, and craft shops. The designation encompasses the building's exterior and parcel; it does not include the building's interior.
The heritage value of 138-142 Richmond Street lies in its Italianate architecture, its association with the Cameron family and its position within the Cameron Block, which is part of Victoria Row, a tangible reminder of the commercial heritage of Charlottetown.
The Ewen Cameron family owned and resided at the property for many years before the present building was constructed. Ewen Cameron, a Member of the House of Assembly, merchant and teacher, owned the property until he died by drowning in 1831. The property then passed to his wife, Jane, and eventually their three girls: Margaret Cameron, Catherine Davies, and Hannah Haszard.
Hannah's son, Horace Haszard, was appointed to act on the sisters' behalf, after the building, and many of the buildings around it, were destroyed by fire in 1884. Haszard commissioned prominent architect, William Critchlow Harris to design the building and hired the Lowe Bros. to build it. The large, impressive structure offered space for stores, offices, and a public hall that were ready for occupancy on 1 February 1885. The Cameron Block was the first building among its neighbours to be built after the fire of 1884.
The choice of the Italianate influenced commercial building style was a popular one in the 1880s. It was considered more durable and fireproof than the wooden structures it invariably replaced. The design was also more decorative, being reminiscent of the Venetian arcades of the Renaissance period. The Cameron Block remains one of the City's best preserved examples of this style.
The Cameron Block housed a variety of tenants throughout the years, including many merchants, lawyers and insurance agents. The 138-142 section housed jeweller and optician, E.W. Taylor. E.T. Higgs, and later James Walker, ran an insurance and tea business from the building as well. The top floor housed Mitchell Bros., a print shop that was bought out by the Patriot Publishing Company in 1920. The space later housed the lodge rooms of the Loyal Orange Association.
Despite various fires, including one that gutted part of the Cameron Block in 1938, the buildings have survived so that we are left with a well preserved collection of Victorian buildings, fittingly referred to as "Victoria Row".
The area has been traditionally commercial in nature, however in recent years it has been open to pedestrian traffic in the summer months and features many shops and restaurants with outdoor patios and live music. The row of heritage buildings is a nice contrast to the modern Confederation Centre of the Arts complex directly across the street. The Cameron Block is a vital component of Victoria Row, which is a monument to Charlottetown's commercial past and one of the most important, well-preserved historic areas in Charlottetown.
Sources: Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
The following Italianate-commercial character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of 138-142 Richmond Street:
- The overall massing and construction of the building
- The style and placement of the brick and stone throughout the facade, including the various decorative mouldings and decorative detailing, the corbelled brick cornices, the pediment near the roof of the building and the medallion with the floral decoration that sits just below the cornice
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large plate glass storefront windows with transom lights, the paired arched windows of the second floor and the paired windows of the third floor
- The placement and style of the doors, particularly the recessed front doors of the first floor facade
- The storefront with its sign band, large plate glass windows and recessed doors with transom lights
- The cast iron work of the facade
Other character-defining elements of 138-142 Richmond Street are:
- The 138-142 section's placement and overall similarity to the other two sections within the Cameron Block
- The location of the building on Victoria Row