The Government of Canada Building is a two-storey steel and concrete structure influenced by the International Style located at 24-28 Church Street, Bonavista, NL. The designation encompasses the structure and its approach from the street.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
The Government of Canada Building was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2021 due to its aesthetic and historic value.
The Government of Canada Building was built in 1951-52 as the first new building opened by the federal government in Newfoundland and Labrador following Confederation. It was designed by the Chief Architect’s office under the guidance of architect C.G. Brault. At its opening the building housed a post office, apartments and offices for the local detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and office space for a number of federal departments.
The Government of Canada Building is a good example of modernist public architecture and is described by Canada’s Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office as “one of the more decisive forays into modernism among the many small federal buildings designed by the Chief Architect’s office in [the period].” More specifically the building exhibits characteristics of the International Style which eschews ornament, expresses simplicity of form, and employs the modern material palette of concrete, steel, and glass. The Government of Canada Building exhibits an asymmetrical facade, simple cubic forms which correspond to interior function, the bold use of modern construction methods including concrete as a finish material, and abstracted architectural elements including concrete pilasters which recall classical porticos. On the interior its period is exemplified by terrazzo floors and bright wood wainscoting, doors, and trim.
In addition to its architectural value, the Government of Canada Building is significant for its association with Confederation. Newfoundland’s union with Canada narrowly won a referendum in 1948 and came into effect in 1949. The construction of the Government of Canada Building just two years later, in the heart of historic Bonavista and among several earlier public buildings, made tangible the result and represented a significant intervention in daily life. Its form marked a distinct and deliberate break with local architecture of the province which had been characterized by timber construction and applied ornamentation. Lastly the Government of Canada Building is representative of a larger movement toward modernism in Canada in the period which had no small influence on Joseph R. Smallwood, Newfoundland and Labrador’s first premier. Smallwood would go on to adopt modernism as a style for many public buildings, as well as his own residence, as part of his efforts to modernize local society. The building is therefore symbolic of a period of rapid social and economic change.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Bonavista – Government of Canada Building – FPT NL-5025”
Character Defining Elements
All original features of the building which relate to its age and style including:
-reinforced concrete structure;
-number of storeys;
-size, style, trim and placement of metal windows and doors with precast spandrel inserts;
-smooth, parged concrete wall surfaces;
-simple cubic forms corresponding to original interior functions;
-two-storey bank of windows with pilaster details on the northeast facade;
-two-storey, deeply recessed bank of windows with concrete surround on the northwest facade;
-single-storey entry with horizontal orientation and pilaster details on the northwest facade;
-plastered terra cotta interior partition walls;
-stained wood wainscoting, doors, and trim on the interior;
-placement with a setback on Church Street, and:
-size and orientation in relation to surrounding earlier period structures.
Location and History
Town of Bonavista
24-28 Church Street
1951 - 1952