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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Phoenix Building is a two storey, brick Italianate-Commercial styled building located on the corner of Queen Street and Dorchester Street, in Charlottetown’s historic business area. Fire destroyed the original building on the site and threatened to destroy this replacement, however the building remains intact to this day. The Phoenix Building had been home to many businesses throughout the years but it has been home to the Canton Cafe Chinese Food Restaurant since the latter half of the twentieth century. The designation encompasses the building’s exterior and parcel; it does not include the building’s interior.
The heritage value of the Phoenix Building lies in its architecture, its association with Charlottetown’s business community and its importance to the Queen Street streetscape.
Hon. Daniel Brenan owned the original brick building that was on the property where the current Phoenix Building now stands. An employee of his tenants, Starbird and Company, accidentally started a fire in the basement and the building burned to the ground in May of 1866. Almost immediately, Brenan began to rebuild. The building was near completion when the Great Fire of 1866 tore through Charlottetown. Unfortunately, the building was in the path of the fire but fortunately, it was constructed of brick and therefore it is generally credited with helping to contain the fire. Once the building was finished, it was soon referred to as the Phoenix Building, a reference to the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes.
The Italianate commercial style was a popular one from the 1840s on in Charlottetown. Invariably constructed of brick, these buildings were considered more durable and fireproof than wooden structures. Decorative detailing was also common. This example is a unique variant of the style since it lacks a great deal of ornamentation.
In 1867, Brenan advertised for tenants and made much of the fact that the building was fireproof. His new tenant, MacEachern and Company, operated what was called the Italian Warehouse from the building. Generally, owners named their buildings after where they were from or what they sold. It is unclear what connection Mr. MacEachern had with Italy. Perhaps this was a reference to the Italianate style of the building?
Owen Connolly, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in 19th Century Prince Edward Island, purchased the Phoenix Building and operated a grocery store from it for a short period. In 1887, he rented it to Norton and Fennel, a hardware company. In 1900, the building reverted to its former role as a grocery store, operated by John McKinnon. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, the building has been home to the Canton Cafe, a Chinese food restaurant.
The building, which has been home to many different Charlottetown businesses, is located in a historic section of Queen Street. One of many heritage buildings in the area, it contributes to the Queen Street streetscape.
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 Phoenix Building:
- The overall massing of the building and symmetrical facade
- The size and shape of the brick construction
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large, evenly spaced round headed windows of the second and third floor, as well as the smaller sized arched windows of the first floor
- The placement and style of the doors, as well as the arched opening to the porch
- The stone quoins on the sides of the building
- The flat roof
Other character-defining elements include:
- The location of the building on the corner of Queen Street and Dorchester Street
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
- Eating or Drinking Establishment
- 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