Description of Historic Place
132 Richmond Street is the centre 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 132 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 main floor of the 132 Richmond Street section of the Brown Block has had various tenants throughout the years including the Stanley Bros. dry goods firm and Reddin's Drug Store. The 22 April 1919 edition of the Guardian newspaper described Reddin's recently renovated space that included a well-stocked dispensary, a confectionery department, a soda water fountain, an extensive selection of cigars, tobacco and fishing supplies, a stationary department, restroom and tearoom. The second and third floor of both the 128 and the 132 Richmond sections of the Brown Block building together played host to the fraternal organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, The Charlottetown Business College and Reddin's dance club and tea parlour- the Rose and Grey Room. Newspapers of the 1920s advertised various bands that played in the Rose and Grey Room including the Cyclone Novelty Orchestra. In the late twentieth century, a restaurant on the main floor of 132 Richmond Street revived the Rose and Grey Room name when it became Pat's Rose and Grey Room.
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 as a well preserved assembly of Victorian buildings in the City.
The area has traditionally been 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 132 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 details such as the corbelled cornice and the arches above the windows that create an arcade effect
- The placement and style of the windows, including the large plate glass storefront windows and the arched windows of the second and third floor
- The placement and style of the doors, particularly the recessed front door of the first floor facade
- The storefront with its sign band and recessed door with transom lights
- The decorative cast iron details
- The flat roofline with corbelled cornice
- The stone that says "Brown Block" in the centre of the third floor facade
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