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The Observatory Municipal Heritage Building

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1994/12/05

Exterior facade, facing east, taken February 2005.; HFNL 2005
1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John's, NL.
Detailed view of the main entrance, 1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John's.  Photo taken October 26, 2007, view looking west.; Deborah O'Rielly/ HFNL 2007
1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John's
View of main facade, looking west, 1 Bonaventure Avenue, The Observatory.  Photo taken October 26, 2007.; Deborah O'Rielly/ HFNL 2007
1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John's

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/11/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

1 Bonaventure Avenue, The Observatory, is a two storey wooden house located at the corner of Bonaventure Avenue and Military Road. It is situated between several very large buildings in the heart of St. John’s. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

1 Bonaventure Avenue, The Observatory, is designated a municipal heritage building because it has historic and aesthetic values.

1 Bonaventure Avenue is historically valuable because of its age and association with first owner, John Delaney. Irish-born Delaney (1811-1883) was the owner of the Observatory from the time of its construction until his death. He came to Newfoundland and represented Placentia in the House of Assembly 1848-52 and 1855-56. He was appointed Postmaster General in 1860 and oversaw improvements in the mail service. His interest in meteorology led, in effect, to the development of a local meteorological service under the aegis of the Meteorological Service of Canada. A regular informant of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society in 1873. He is also significant for having made and operated the first telephone in Newfoundland in 1878. Delaney’s historical significance rests on his work in meteorology and on the telephone. 1 Bonaventure Avenue was equipped with an observatory when it was constructed. It was a two-storey structure attached to the rear addition but has since been demolished. It was from this structure, and the attached house that Delaney studied meteorology as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society and thus made a significant contribution to the society.

1 Bonaventure Avenue is aesthetically valuable because it is a beautiful example of Second Empire Design, having survived the Great Fire of 1892. This wooden, two-storey house has a Mansard roof with a projecting central tower, itself with a mansard roof. The Observatory has returned, moulded eaves and arched one over one windows. Above the main façade windows are moulded brackets supporting wide shelves, and this is reflected around the front door. This house stands alone in its decoration, as it is the only single dwelling in the immediate area.

Source: City of St. John's Archives, Railway Coastal Museum, 3rd Floor, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that embody the Second Empire style, including:
-mansard roof;
-arched 1/1 windows;
-bracketed shelves;
-returned moulded eaves; and
-projecting central tower.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

City of St. John's

Recognition Statute

City of St. John's Development Regulations

Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Single Dwelling

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of St. John's Archives, Railway Coastal Museum, 3rd Floor, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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