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O'Dwyer Block

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

Formally Recognized: 1988/10/24

Exterior photo, front facade, O'Dwyer Block, Water Street, St. John's, Newfoundland, July 14, 2004.; HFNL 2005
O'Dwyer Block, Water Street, St. John's
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1846/01/01 to 1849/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/01/18

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The O’Dwyer Block is a row of buildings built by prominent merchant, Richard O’Dwyer between 1846 and 1849. Located on Water Street in St. John’s, the O’Dwyer Block is built in the Classical Revival style of architecture. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The O’Dwyer Block is designated as a Registered Heritage Structure due to its architectural and historic value.

The O’Dwyer Block is architecturally valuable as a good example of a merchant building influenced by the Classical Revival style. This building retains many elements of the Classical style including symmetrical granite façade with evenly spaced window openings and dormers as well as Doric pilasters. Built of stone and mortar, the O’Dwyer Block is one of the earliest major merchant buildings in St. John’s not built of wood. Moreover, the O’Dwyer Block retains a traditional shop front with recessed doorways and large shop windows trimmed with wood. The scale and bulk of the building are a symbol of the affluence of the O’Dwyer family. The O’Dwyer Block serves as a reminder of the success and influence of the merchant class in Newfoundland in the past.

Built between 1846 and 1849, the O’Dwyer Block is historically valuable as one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1892. The O’Dwyer Block is also historically valuable for its association with prominent Newfoundland merchant Richard O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer, a merchant from Waterford built the O’Dwyer Block between 1846 and 1849 to house his offices and retail stores while the Murray Premises were being constructed as warehouse storage. The O’Dwyer Block also had sufficient space to accommodate the operations of other merchants.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador unnumbered property file: "St. John’s-O’Dwyer Block"

Character-Defining Elements

All those elementsthat are representative of a Classical Revival influenced commercial property, including:
-symmetrical façade, pilasters;
-stone and mortar construction;
-granite façade;
-clapboard clad hipped roof dormers;
-window style, number and placement;
-building height, number of storeys, massing and dimensions; and
-recessed doorways with large shop windows.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute

Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 Springdale Street, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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