Nfld. & Labrador

Craft Council hopes to get more info on its new, historic home

The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador is hoping to hear new stories about 275 Duckworth at an event later this month.

275 Duckworth St., the new location of the Craft Council, has a long history in downtown St. John's

Rachael Green stands outside 275 Duckworth. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador wants to learn more about the historic downtown building it now calls home.

The council moved into 275 Duckworth St. earlier this year. Now it's planning a reunion party for anybody with a connection to the six-storey building, which was constructed more than 100 years ago and was once home to the Evening Telegram.

"This building, it's been home to a lot of things throughout history," said Rachael Green, an oral historian and archival researcher working with both the Craft Council and Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But some of the details on that history are limited, Green said. To try to fill in some of those gaps, the Craft Council is inviting former tenants and employees, their friends and family, and any other interested persons to visit 275 Duckworth on Aug. 1 to share stories and hopefully uncover some new information.

This is what 275 Duckworth St. looks like today. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Making uniforms for the regiment

When 275 Duckworth opened in 1911, it was in some ways ahead of its time, Green said. The building has always been six storeys, making it quite large for its time period, and still retains many of its original architectural details like detailing on the windows and the original steel imported from England in 1908.

This newspaper ad, published in 1912, features a drawing of the building. (Submitted by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador)

The first tenant was the Newfoundland Clothing Company, which occupied the building from 1911 to 1952. The Newfoundland Clothing Company made suits, men's clothing, overalls, coveralls and uniforms for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Shipping and receiving was on the main floor for convenience, Green said, boxes were made in the basement, and management and manufacturing happened on the upper floors. 

The Newfoundland Clothing Company was one of a couple of similar businesses in that area of downtown, which at the time had several clothing and manufacturing businesses, Green said. Then, when the next tenant came in in the 1950s, the area's focus shifted to printing, she said.

An elevator ghost?

When the Newfoundland Clothing Company left, the Evening Telegram moved in, and the newspaper stayed until 1981.

"We're really on the hunt for more information about the Evening Telegram," Green said. The paper is an excellent record of many things that happened in the province, she said, but did not really cover its own news.

These are men and boys who worked at 275 Duckworth St. when it was the offices of the Evening Telegram. They are on the steps of Solomon's Lane. Date unknown. (Submitted by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador)

One thing they do know, she said, is that the building's elevator was not very reliable, and some at the Telegram blamed that on a ghost.

"One gentleman told me that there was a story about this being a haunted elevator," she said.

The rumour which she hasn't been able to substantiate in any way was that someone died in the elevator, and their ghostly spirit decided to stick around and get in the way of its proper functioning.

One thing they do know for certain, thanks to an article published in the paper marking its last day in the building, is that the printing press used in 275 Duckworth was 80 years old by the time the paper left.

The last day it was used was the day the Telegram moved out.

'Everything helps'

A few other operations occupied 275 Duckworth between the Telegram's departure and the Craft Council's arrival. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the building was home to restaurants and law offices, and then CompuCollege was based there.

Ewen Hennebury, a printer at the Telegram, is at work in this archival photo. (Submitted by Nancy Winsor)

Now that the Craft Council has moved in, situating its shop and gallery at street level, Green hopes to fill in some of that past history from the people who lived it. There are plans to use the information learned at the upcoming building reunion to complete a historical report of the building's timeline.

"Getting the first-hand information from people is always different than getting your research online," she said.

For more information, or to share information about 275 Duckworth St., contact Green at craft@heritagenl.ca or 709-739-1892, ext. 6.

"Anything counts, and everything helps," she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Weekend AM

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