Description of Historic Place
O’Donel Memorial Hall is located on the east side of Garrison Hill at 058 Queen's Road and 189 Military Road, adjoining St. Patrick’s Hall (also known as the Benevolent Irish Society Building). This three storey, masonry building with a symmetrical facade, and a mansard roof with dormers was built in 1905 to 1906, and originally functioned as a school. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Benevolent Irish Society Building, of which O’Donel Memorial Hall is a wing, became a Registered Heritage Structure in April 1990 in recognition of the prominent role played by the Benevolent Irish Society in Newfoundland's history. O’Donel Memorial Hall itself has aesthetic, historic and cultural values and was designated a Municipal Heritage Structure by the City of St. John's for these reasons.
O’Donel Memorial Hall has aesthetic value as a Second Empire style masonry building incorporating elements of classical architecture, giving it a solid, institutional appearance befitting its original function as a school. It exhibits many of the features characteristic of Second Empire style, chiefly the hallmark mansard roof with dormers. It also has decorative eaves brackets, quoining, and symmetrical, paired windows. The building’s architectural elements derivative of classical architecture include moulded pilasters, a decorative entablature, and a semi-circular arched entrance.
O’Donel Memorial Hall’s symmetrical front facade features a central, projecting section which is symmetrical unto itself, with a distinct pattern of central arches at each of the three levels, creating a visual vertical line. The ground floor has a rounded arched entryway, the second floor central window is topped by fanlights, creating an arch and a central Palladian style dormer sits at the top level. Building on that symmetry and repetition, each arch is flanked by rectangular sidelights.
O’Donel Memorial Hall has historic value due to its age and connection to the Benevolent Irish Society and Roman Catholicism in Newfoundland, and specfically to its namesake, Bishop J.L. O’Donel. The Rt. Rev. Dr. James Louis O’Donel (1737 to 1811) was the first of the Irish prelates to head the Roman Catholic congregation in Newfoundland. Born in Ireland, O’Donel was a Franciscan priest sent by the Church in 1784 to oversee the development of Newfoundland as an independent ecclesiastical territory – the first in British North America. In 1795 the territory was raised to the status of Vicariate-Apostolic, and in 1796 O’Donel was consecrated as Newfoundland’s first Roman Catholic Bishop. O’Donel was also the first English-speaking Catholic bishop outside the diocese of Quebec, in what is now Canada.
O’Donel Memorial Hall has cultural value due its connection with the Benevolent Irish Society, the Roman Catholic Church, and its former function as a school overseen by the Irish Christian Brothers. The Benevolent Irish Society (B.I.S.) formed in St. John’s under the patronage of Bishop O’Donel in 1806. It is the oldest charitable and social organization in Newfoundland and Labrador, and historically one of its most influential fraternal groups. It is also one of the oldest charitable organizations in North America. At its inception, the B.I.S. based in St. John’s was a non-profit, nondenominational society for Irish-born men and their descendants, though it was essentially a defacto Roman Catholic organization by 1830.
In 1876 the B.I.S. sponsored the establishment of the Irish Christian Brothers in Newfoundland. St. Patrick’s Hall (constructed circa 1880) on Queen’s Road served as a school managed by the Christian Brothers, and as headquarters for the B.I.S. Construction of the O’Donel Memorial Hall wing, adjoining St. Patrick’s Hall, started in 1905. O’Donel Memorial Hall was opened upon the centenary of the B.I.S. in 1906, and provided more school space.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador unnumbered property designation file, St. John’s - Benevolent Irish Society.
All those exterior aesthetic elements which are indicative of the building’s age and which characterize Second Empire design, including those elements which are derivative of classical architecture
-concave mansard roof pierced with dormers
-projection of eaves
-number, shape, style, dimensions, placement and roof types of dormer windows
-number, shape, dimensions, style, placement and trims of all other windows
-symmetrical facade of building, including the symmetrical central protruding section
-all decorative features, including stonework, moulding, eaves brackets, quoining and trims
-and the recessed front porch, including round arch, keystone, spandrels, molded pilasters and entablature.
All those exterior elements which contribute to the building’s solid, institutional appearance in keeping with its original function as a school
-height, dimensions, shape and orientation of the building
-number of storeys
-formality, symmetry and visual weight of design
-and the unobstructed view of front facade from the street (Queen's Road).
All those exterior elements which are indicative of the building’s historic and cultural significance via its association with the Benevolent Irish Society and Roman Catholicism
-location of the building relative to St. Patrick’s Hall (also known as the Benevolent Irish Society Building)
-the keystone with a shamrock on it in the arch of the front entrance
-and the engraved words and dates "O DONEL MEMORIAL HALL" and 1806 B.I.S. 1906 in the entablature over arched front entrance.