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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The building at 51-53 Gore Street East, commonly known as the Matthews Building, is situated on the north bank of the Little Tay River in downtown Perth and fronts onto the town's main commercial street. Constructed in 1846, the two-and-a-half-storey Georgian structure was built for local shoe manufacturer William O'Brien and its unique riverside setting makes it one of Perth's most picturesque buildings.
The exterior of the building and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the Town of Perth under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 2300).
The Matthews Building is a critical component in the Gore Street streetscape and is one of the most celebrated and photographed buildings in the downtown due to its picturesque setting. It is located on the north side of Gore Street and is a significant element in a row of stone buildings that includes the Brookes Block (1846), the Sheriff's House (1841), and the Thomas-Wright Building (1851). The building also abuts a double-span, stone arch bridge that was built over the Little Tay River in 1905.
The Matthews Building is significant for its association with Perth's first construction boom, which occurred during the years following the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832. Once work on the canal ceased, a number of Irish and Scottish stonemasons settled in the area and began to erect stone commercial blocks on the vacant lands along Gore Street. Gore Street had been slow to develop due to difficulty in crossing the Tay River, but by mid-century a bridge had been constructed and Gore supplanted Foster Street as the community's main commercial street. Erected in 1846, the Matthews Building was one of the many stone commercial blocks associated with the rise of Gore Street into commercial success. The Matthews Building is also significant for its role in accommodating some of the most prominent businesses in the history of Perth. The building was originally constructed for a shoe manufacturer and leather dealer named William O'Brien, but its other occupants have included the Dominion Telegraph Company (1875-1885), George Butler's Tinsmith Company (1875-1889), and the Perth Courier Newspaper (1890-1898). The building is named after Mr. John Matthews, the man responsible for its restoration following a major fire in September of 1979.
The Matthews Building is architecturally significant for its simplicity, grandeur and quality of construction. It is designed in the Georgian style, replicated throughout the commercial core, and its scale and proportions echo those of the Matheson House, Gore Street's archetypical Georgian structure. Despite the similarities of the buildings in Perth's commercial core, the Matthews Building possesses a number of unique qualities that arise from its location at the convergence of a river and a street. First, the building has been designed as if it were a corner building, with its two public elevations dressed in coursed ashlar and accented with quoins. Circulation patterns are also somewhat peculiar, with the basement and upper floors only accessible by the three-tier wooden veranda located on the riverside of the building. Other recognizable features include the heavily-glazed storefronts and gable dormers on the building's main (south) facade. Both of these features were added during a restoration in the late 1970s that was designed to return the building to its 1890s appearance.
Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Matthews Building include its:
- simplicity, grandeur and the quality of its Georgian construction
- main facade of local coursed ashlar, accented by quoins and bound by imposing stone end walls
- ground floor storefront which is heavily glazed and contains a dentil trimmed wooden cornice that complements the bracketed cornice at the roofline
- voussoired quadrant windows and wooden three-level veranda of the eastern elevation
- window openings enclosed by simple jack arches and containing double-hung sash windows with a twelve-over-twelve glazing pattern
- side gable roof which is clad in cedar shingles and is punctuated by three gabled dormers on its south side
- critical location within the Gore streetscape
- unique location on the north bank of the Little Tay River
- similarity and compatibility with the nearby Matheson House
- close proximity to a number of other significant heritage resources
Ontario Heritage Trust
Ontario Heritage Act
Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement
1979/01/01 to 1980/01/01
1889/01/01 to 1889/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Conservation Easement Files
Ontario Heritage Trust
10 Adelaide Street East
Cross-Reference to Collection