Description of Historic Place
134 Richmond Street is the eastern most property in the Brown Block, which is a large Italianate Commercial influenced, stone and brick 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 134 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 build 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 Browns had intended on using the western section of the Brown Block for their own business venture, however by the time the building was ready for occupancy, the idea was shelved.
The 134 Richmond Street section of the Brown Block has had various tenants throughout the years. W.A. Weeks' business moved into the Brown Block, but stayed only for one year when he was replaced by James Paton and Company. Paton's store would grow and expand until it took up the entire 134 Richmond section of the Brown Block and finally, a new annex had to be constructed on Sydney Street to house their furniture division. The 1 May 1920 edition of the Guardian newspaper reported that the section of Brown Block where Paton's was located was sold at auction to J.A. MacLean. A later tenant of the Brown Block was the Patriot newspaper. As a result of a fire in the 1950s, the Patriot's print shop was damaged and the Patriot was forced to print its newspaper from its rival, the Guardian's printing presses for a time. It is unclear if this is the blaze that resulted in the removal of the building's third storey.
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. Today, Victoria Row is a well preserved group 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 134 Richmond Street:
- The overall two storey massing of the building
- The style and placement of the brick and stone throughout the facade, including the various decorative details such as the corbelled brick 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 floor
- The placement and style of the doors, particularly the off centre 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 that was originally one storey higher and more elaborate, with a pediment and mouldings
Other character-defining elements of 134 Richmond Street include:
- The location of the building on Victoria Row and as part of the Brown Block