The Crow's Nest
(88 Water Street, St. John's)
First built as a warehouse after the Great Fire of 1892, the building then known as "The Old Butler Building" is now best known as the place that houses one of St. John's most exclusive clubs, the Crow's Nest.
After the Great Fire destroyed most of St. John's, the city began an extensive rebuilding process. "The Old Butler Building" was built in 1892 and was on the same ground where an old inn called "The Ship" was two centuries before. During the building's first 50 years it was primarily a warehouse.
That changed in 1942. With World War Two raging in Europe, many naval vessels made St. John's a port of call. Captain E.R. Mainguy was the officer in charge of navy escort ships stationed in St. John's. With the assistance of Lady Dorothy Outerbridge, he was able to obtain space for a club where officers could visit when not on duty. Lady Outerbridge was able to find space on the fourth floor of the warehouse and obtained it for the rent of $1 per year.
Between 1942 and 1945 the Seagoing Officers Club, as it was known then, became famous around the North Atlantic as a place for naval men to go and relax from the horrors of the war. It also became famous for the rickety 59 steps leading up to the club. Getting up the stairs was no problem, but trying to come back down at the end of the evening proved to be a far more daunting task.
The club also served as a way for young men to leave a memento of themselves before heading out to sea. Soon after the club opened, handwritten messages were being left on the wall, floors or wherever the men could find space. Eventually, Captain Mainguy, who was also in charge of the club, gave each vessel four sq. ft. of wall space to decorate anyway they wanted. Many of the crewmen decorated the wall space with the crests of their vessels, crests that remain in the club to this day. In many cases, these crests and other items serve as memorials and tributes to those sailors who did not survive the war.
Since the end of the war, the club has changed its name to the Crow's Nest. Management has laboured to keep the historic fourth floor bar area intact. The Crow's Nest also has a third floor that has a dining room. The bottom two floors are currently occupied by a marketing company.
In the early 1990s the management of the Crow's Nest entered into an arrangement with Target Marketing, the company that shares the building, that allowed them to renovate the club and the rest of the building. As a result, the building is now in excellent shape, while the Crow's Nest still manages to retain its historic qualities.
Built around a timber frame, the brick and stone exterior is distinctive as you walk along Water Street near the War Memorial. Considered a significant structure by the Canadian Navy, the Crow's Nest and surrounding building was recognised as a Registered Heritage Structure in April 1990 by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.