Description of Historic Place
126-128 Richmond Street is the western most property in the Brown Block, which is a large Italianate influenced, stone and brick commercial building. The Brown 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 126-128 Richmond Street lies in its Italianate Commercial influenced architecture, its association with various Charlottetown businesses and its position within the Brown Block, which is part of Victoria Row, a tangible reminder of the commercial heritage of Charlottetown.
John George Hamilton Brown Jr. had the Brown Block constructed after the fire of 1884 destroyed the wooden buildings along this stretch of Richmond Street. Brown's father and uncle had operated the British Warehouse, a dry goods store, for many years prior to the fire. After the building was destroyed, John George Hamilton Brown decided to buy the land next to it, on which a store named Cheapside once stood, and built a row of three buildings, which would be named the Brown Block. Prominent local architects, Phillips and Chappell were hired to design the Italianate Commercial style buildings. Unlike the Cameron Block next door to the Brown Block, the three sections of Brown Block were not identical in their construction.
The 126-128 Richmond Street section of the Brown Block has had various tenants throughout the years including the Merchants Bank of Halifax (which would eventually amalgamate with the Royal Bank of Canada) and the Goff Brothers, who were shoemakers and retailers. The 15 January 1912 edition of the Examiner newspaper commented on Goff and Co.'s handsome new store, which was designed by C.B. Chappell, and featured a plate glass window facade with inset front doors. Instead of having counters, goods were to be displayed on shelves, and a mezzanine had been installed. Later occupants of the 126-128 Richmond Street section of the Brown Block included the Prowse Brothers, Meyer's Studio, the Charlottetown Business College, dentists, C.H. Beer, and D. Charles Dougan and J.J. Johnston. The second floor of the 126-128 section of the Brown Block was also once home to the fraternal organization, the Independent Order of Oddfellows. In recent decades, it was the location of Reddin's dance club and a tea parlour called the Rose and Grey Room.
All of the buildings on Victoria Row fell victim to the fire of 1884. After the fire, owners along this section of Richmond Street built attractive Italianate Commercial influenced brick and stone buildings as replacements. 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 Brown Block remains one of the City's well-preserved examples of this style. Despite various fires, including three that damaged the Brown Block in 1952, 1957 and 1971, the buildings have survived so that we are left with a generally 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 Brown 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 126-128 Richmond Street:
- The overall massing and construction of the building with its three storeys
- The style and placement of the brick and stone throughout the facade, including the various decorative mouldings and carvings
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large plate glass storefront windows, the arched windows of the second floor and the paired windows of the third floor that together form an arch
- 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 simple roofline, which was originally more elaborate with a pediment and various carvings
Other character-defining elements of 126-128 Richmond Street include:
- The location of the building on Victoria Row and as part of the Brown Block