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A Guide to Researching Historic Buildings in St. John’s

“A Guide to Researching Historic Buildings in St. John’s” was compiled by Patti Ryan in response to regular inquiries at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). It was published in June 1996 by the Archives’ Reference and Researcher Services with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation. Much of the information is specific to the PANL and City of St. John’s Archives (CSJA), however the booklet also indicates several outside sources.

Those Ryan recommends are:

At the Provincial Archives

  • Newspapers – Announcements regarding city laws and developments or ads for contractors, etc.
  • Manuscripts – Information regarding the builders and occupants of historic buildings.
  • Cartographic Collection – Maps, plans, and sketches.
  • Directories – Occupants of historic buildings, by name and by street.
  • Crown Land Grants – Owners and leaseholders of properties, 1803-1930.
  • Voter’s Lists – Addresses of eligible voters, 1900-.
  • Nominal Census – Lists residents, ages, and occupations of each household, 1921, 1935, 1945.
  • Wills – Probated wills by surname may indicate transfer of property.
  • Published Material – Books and pamphlets on architecture.
    • A Gift of Heritage (NLHT)
    • Architectural Heritage of St. John’s (NLHT)
    • Domestic Architecture of Old St. John’s (O’Dea, 1974)
    • Duckworth Street Inventory (CSJ Planning Department)
    • Fix-up and Paint-up St. John’s (Downtown Development Corporation, 1969)
    • Newfoundland Men (Mott, 1894)
    • Newfoundland Who’s Who (Newfoundland Butter Company Ltd., 1927, 1930, 1937)
    • Notable Events in the History of Newfoundland (Devine & O’Mara, 1900)
    • Reports on Selected Buildings in St. John’s (Parks Canada)
    • Researching Heritage Buildings (Margaret Carter, booklet)
    • Streetscapes (Building Inventory, 1983, 8 vols.)
    • When Was That (Mosdell, 1922)
    • Newfoundland/Avalon Telephone Company Phone Books

At the City of St. John’s Archives

  • Assessment Books/Tax Rolls – Lists owners and occupiers, accessory buildings, businesses, occupations, etc., by street number, 1891-.
  • Plan Books – Building and renovation applications, 1911-.
  • Historic Images – Photographs, 1880s-1990s. House-by-house inventory, 1930s-1960s.
  • Insurance Atlas – Originals of microfilm maps also found at the PANL.
  • Cartographic Collection – Noads 1852 map, published street maps with houses, property maps.
  • Voter’s Lists – As above, but for municipal elections, 1937-.
  • Arbitration Award Books – List of properties taken by the City for infrastructure following 1892 fire, 1892-1945.
  • Building Inventory – Card catalogue listing of houses with architectural style and builder.
  • Planning Department – Municipal plans.
  • Minutes of Council – Development applications and decisions, 1880-.
  • Library Material – Books and reports held by the CSJA

At the Registry of Deeds

  • Land deeds by surname of buyer and seller, 1825-.

At the Crown Lands Administration

  • Grants and leases for land.
  • Cadastral maps of the above.

At the Newfoundland Historical Society Archives

  • Published material and files.

At the Centre for Material Culture Studies (MUN)

  • Published material.
  • The Nwfoundland Historic Buildings Database
  • The Newfoundland Furniture Database.
  • Visual Materials Collection – Slides, negatives, and architectural drawings/blueprints.

At the Provincial Reference Library (ACC)

  • Primarily newspapers.

At the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Support for heritage restoration.