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205 Water Street Municipal Heritage Building

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

Formally Recognized: 1989/07/21

View of main facade of HSBC Building, 205 Water Street, St. John's, NL.  Photo taken February 2005. Note the wreath motif in the pediment and entablature.; HFNL 2005
205 Water Street, St. John's, NL.
View of streetscape with 205 Water Street in foreground.  Photo taken October 12, 2006; HFNL/ Deborah O'Rielly 2006
205 Water Street, St. John's, NL.
Detail of plaster ceiling in main portion of bank.  Ceilings are very high and long, pendulum lights hang from the decoration.  Photo taken November 8, 2006.; HFNL/ Deborah O'Rielly 2006
205 Water Street ceiling detail

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/11/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

205 Water Street is a Classical Revival style building located at 205 Water Street, downtown St. John's, NL. It is a striking gray, concrete parged building with immense proportions that stands out from neighboring buildings. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

205 Water Street has been designated a Municipal Heritage Building for its aesthetic and historic values.

205 Water Street is a very fine example of the Classical Revival style. Faced in concrete this building utilizes symmetry through the use of three storey fluted, monumental pilasters. A large pediment graces the front of the building and large dentils can be found at the eaves. Arched windows with keystone decorations grace the second storey windows. A decorative wreath can be seen in the pediment high on the top floor. The main floor arched windows have heavy concrete mullions separating each window pane and the overall impression of this building is of monumentality, strength and stability. The main entrance further expresses this through its heavy entablature with dentils and pilasters and the deeply recessed door. A second entrance located at the front façade gives access to the second floor offices.

205 Water Street is historically valuable due to its age, variety of uses and rarity in design. Earliest records in the City of St. John's Directory show the building as a concrete warehouse owned by the Baine Johnston Company General Merchandise. Between this time and 1925 the building was converted as a bank by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. The city tax atlas description of the bank in 1946 shows brick terra cotta and concrete construction, giving it its present appearance. It has remained a bank since that time, but has changed ownership and entities.

205 Water Street is also historically valuable for its rarity in design. This building was constructed after the 1892 Great Fire of St. John's destroyed much of the city, including this street and all buildings on it. As the city rebuilt strict rules were enforced that made buildings "fireproof" by making them from inflammable materials such as stone and concrete. 205 Water Street began as a concrete warehouse, but as its use increased in importance as a bank, its appearance changed to include the monumental features visible today. The building stands out amongst its neighbors as unique and one of a kind.

Source: City of St. John's Archives, unnumbered property file, St. John's - HSBC Building

Character-Defining Elements

All those elements that define the building's Classical Revivial design, including:
-symmetrical façade;
-use of pilasters, arches, pediments and dentils;
-concrete and stone sheathing;
-fenestration of windows;
-recessed main entrance;
-heavy entablature;
-second entrance to the offices on the second floor;
-wreath motif decoration;
-size, dimensions and location of building; and
-general massing and number of stories.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

City of St. John's

Recognition Statute

City of St. John's Act

Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of St. John's Archives, 3rd Floor Railway Coastal Museum, 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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