160-164 Richmond Street, Newson Block
160-164 Richmond Street, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, C1A, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Newson Block is a large Italianate-Commercial influenced, stone and brick commercial building. The Newson Block is located on what is known as Victoria Row, a row 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 the Newson Block lies in its Italianate-Commercial architecture, its association with local furniture business owner John Newson and its location within Victoria Row, a tangible reminder of Charlottetown’s commercial heritage.
John Newson, a furniture manufacturer and importer lost his original building after a fire destroyed it in 1884. He began to rebuild almost immediately afterward; hence, the building was ready for occupancy as early as 1885. Prominent architect, William Critchlow Harris designed the new building. The Newson Block is similar to the Cameron Block, a building two doors down, also designed by the famed architect.
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 Newson Block remains one of the City's most well preserved examples of this style.
Newson’s new building featured a furniture showroom in the front of the building with woodworking and upholstery shops in the back. Newson ran into financial difficulty and had to sell his stock at a bankruptcy sale. Eventually, he managed to pull himself out of bankruptcy and continued in his business until after 1900.
The Union Bank of Halifax became a tenant in the eastern section of the building in 1908 and interestingly, the same section was home to the Provincial Bank of Canada seven years later. The other rooms in the building contained offices and meeting rooms.
Despite various fires, including one that damaged part of the Newson Block in 1962, the buildings have survived so that we are left with a well-preserved stretch 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 Newson 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 the Newson Block:
- The overall massing and construction of the building
- The style and placement of the brick and rough hewn stone throughout the facade, including the various decorative mouldings and detailing
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large plate glass storefront windows with transom lights, the arched windows of the second floor with lunettes and the narrow windows of the third floor
- The placement and style of the doors, particularly the recessed doors of the first floor facade, with their transom lights as well as the large door near the centre of the facade with its heavy stone door surround with key
- The storefronts with their large, plate glass windows and recessed doors with transom lights. The eastern storefront’s decorative door surround with columns and a broken pediment with decoration in the typanum is a particularly interesting feature. The fencelike detail along the bottom of the eastern storefront is a nice detail that was added in the early 1900s. The western storefront has a more simple but attractive design.
- The carved freestone sign with the date the building was constructed near the top of the facade
- The unique shape of the roofline
Other character-defining elements of the Newson Block are:
- The location of the building on Victoria Row
Prince Edward Island
City of Charlottetown
City of Charlottetown Zoning and Development Bylaw
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Office, City of Charlottetown Planning Department, PO Box 98, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7K2
Cross-Reference to Collection