Howard House (7 Garrison Hill, St. John's)
Another one of St. John's grand houses built in the years immediately following the Great Fire of 1892, the building now called Howard House originally served as a private home for the wealthy Parker family.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Parker family owned the site where Howard House now stands, decades before they built the current house. In the 1830s and 1840s, a highly successful tavern operated on the spot which catered to the needs of the soldiers stationed at Fort Townshend. After one of St. John's Great Fires wiped out most of the city in 1846, the tavern operated as a post office for several years. In 1861 the Parkers tore it down to build a large private residence. The Great Fire of 1892 destroyed that house. Construction on a replacement home began almost immediately.
Members of the Parker family were prominent businessmen in St. John's for almost two centuries. James Parker, who was the senior partner in the shoe company called Parker and Monroe, built the house in 1892. The company's factory on Alexander Street made 100,000 pairs of boots and shoes a year at that time, most of which were sold to Newfoundlanders.
Parker and his family remained in the house until his death in 1953. Afterwards, the house and property went to his daughter Margaret, who promptly sold it to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation. In 1954, the house became the first Newfoundland convent for the Sisters of Service who also operated it as a hostel for young women who came to St. John's to work.
This continued until 1978 when the John Howard Society bought the house and it became the first halfway house for ex-offenders in Newfoundland, a function it continues to serve.
Howard House stands at the bottom of Garrison Hill and is located in one of the most historic areas in St. John's. It is just downhill from the Roman Catholic Basilica, across the road from St. Patrick's Hall and near the Anglican Cathedral, Gower Street United Church and other heritage buildings.
The building is a wooden structure in a Queen Anne Revival style and is one of the larger mansion-houses in the area. It has several architectural features that are almost impossible to find today in St. John's; chief among them is the fence. The property was known for its large garden fenced by a retaining wall with an iron fence. It is the only property in downtown St. John's with this type of fence. The grounds and fence won a Southcott Award from the Newfoundland Historic Trust.
Howard House remains in excellent shape. The John Howard Society has made few alterations to the original structure and they continue to restore and repair the house. It was recognised as a Registered Heritage Structure in May 1997.