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The Historic Marshall Brothers Cellar

Prescott St-Water Street, St. John's

On January 20, 2016 St John’s lost a very unusual historic site. The stone vaults of the Marshall/Stotts Building were a last reminder of the early 1900s structure. It was located on the long vacant corner of Water Street and Harbour Dive in the area formally known as Jobs Cove. While some evidence puts the construction of the vaults before the 1892 fire, it is accepted that they were well over 100 years old.

Before the great fire of 1892 destroyed most of the downtown area, James Stott owned a small stone structure here where he sold liquor and spirits. After the building burned down with most of Water Street it was rebuilt except this time in a slightly skewered location. Engineers and city planners took advantage of the devastation of Water Street and decided to straighten the road by shifting the buildings on either side. This meant that after 1892 the new building would have been angled slightly different than the original.

The new building came to be known as the Marshall Building and was owned by a variety of occupants over the 20th century. The building was recognized as a historic structure by the Federal Heritage Review Board.

In 1983 Mayor John Murphy made a request to the Federal Minister of Public Works to acquire the building in order to demolish it and realign the intersection of Harbour Drive and Water Street. The building was purchased the following year by Harold Duffet in hopes of constructing a parking garage for the new TD Building across the street. The city refused the request because the design would not allow for realignment plans to the Water Street intersection.

The request for the buildings demolition was sent to city council several times despite its heritage status and although debates over the cities heritage regulations followed, the building was expropriated and destroyed in 1996 for road alignment on Harbour Drive.

In late 2015 a Montreal Based Groupe Germaine sent in an application to construct a 5 story, 148 room ALT Hotel on the corner of Water Street and Harbour Drive. The developer assessed the structural integrity of the vaults to determine if they could be included in the new design, but this was found to be unfeasible. And while it may seem all is loss the developer has said that it will attempt to use the brick and stone of the vaults in the hotels exterior landscape design.

Sources & Further Exploring

ICH Blog

CBC - Vault removed as construction begins on new Alt Hotel 

CBC - Alt Hotel plans moving ahead for St. John's harbour front location 

Development and Destruction in Downtown St. John's - The Embodiment of Cultural Values in Architecture: A Case Study of Urban Development and Heritage Preservation in St. John's by John A/ Trahey

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