Construction and Interior
The cornerstone was laid on Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24 th, 1847. The local newspapers vividly described the festivities of the day, summing up that there were, "many demonstrations of joy and loyalty usual on the happy occasion." The laying of the cornerstone was also marked by burying, under the cornerstone, a commemorative case which held some local currency, copies of local newspapers, some grains of locally grown wheat, and an inscribed parchment which formally documented the event.
The construction had begun in 1846, and it was slated to be completed on or before the first day of January 1848. The Building was delayed in its completion by various minor complications, and its actual opening was two years and 28 days after the original scheduled opening date. The total cost of the construction at the time of the official opening was estimated to be £18,335. It was then, as it is now, a stunning example of fine architecture. It's facade was constructed of imported white Irish limestone and is neoclassical in design, with six impressive ionic columns, and a pediment sculpted with the Royal Coat of Arms.
The official opening of the Colonial Building was held on Monday, January 28th, 1850, at 2:30 pm. Governor LeMarchant spoke at the ceremony, saying it was, "dedicated to the future advancement and well being of the country, a building which from its magnificence and extent will henceforth invest our legislature with and additional degree of interest and veneration."
Ceiling of the Colonial Building
The celebrated ceilings of the Colonial Building are noteworthy for both their beauty and for the story that goes along with their painting. The ceilings were painted in 1880 by a Polish fresco painter named Alexander Pindikowski. Mr. Pindikowski had come to Newfoundland to teach art in the community of Heart=s Content. However, he became a famous character in Newfoundland history, not through his teaching, but rather through his arrest for attempting to cash forged cheques.
Pindikowski was arrested for his crime in the Temperance Coffee House, on Water Street, in St. John's on March 10, 1880. He was convicted of the crime of forgery and was sentenced to serve fifteen months in the Penitentiary.
The Government, being aware of Mr. Pindikowski's talents as a fresco painter, decided to put him to work during the day on the ceilings of the Council Chamber and the Assembly Room at the Colonial Building. For all his efforts and the lasting evidence of his talents as a painter, Pindikowski's prison sentence was remitted by one month.
There were nine different colours used in the original ceiling work, and an inlay of 200 books of gold leaf. Pindikowski's work was carefully restored in 1940 by a local painter named Clem Murphy. Smoke and dust had to be removed from the ceilings, and many of the colours had faded or disappeared entirely, requiring re-stencilling.