The Colonial Building:
"If These Walls Could Talk"
An exhibition on the history of the Colonial Building by the
Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador, Fall 1997. The exhibition was
curated by Patti Ryan.
Soon after Newfoundland won the right of Representative Government,
in 1832, it became apparent that one of the first challenges facing
the new Government would be to find an adequate place to
house their Legislature.
The Colonial Building.
Courtesy of the Provincial
Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL VA 3-8).
The first home of the Legislature was a tavern and lodging house
owned and operated by a Mrs. Travers. The Legislature's stay
with Mrs. Travers turned out to be a short-lived misadventure.
The Legislature, in their haste and inexperience, forgot to vote
approval for the funds to pay Mrs. Travers her rent. The result was
a very irate landlady who seized all the property of the Legislature,
not to be released until she was paid what they owed her.
The Legislature was to endure many other temporary homes before
they would finally get a building of their own. The Government made
its first significant steps toward this when they passed an act in
1836 for the construction of a Colonial Building to serve the dual
function of a home for the legislature and a public market house for
the people of St. John's. After much debate, and the rejection of
numerous other proposed sites, the current site of the Colonial
Building was decided upon, with the assistance of the contractor
James Purcell and the builder, Patrick Keough.