The Temperance Street Houses (also known as the Four Sisters and the Samuel Garrett Houses) are located at 31, 35 and 37 Temperance Street, St. John’s, NL. The stone, three-storey row houses are built on a steep hill and slope down toward St. John’s Harbour. The designation is confined to the footprints of three of the buildings.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
The Temperance Street Houses were designated Registered Heritage Structures by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988 because of their historic and aesthetic value.
The Temperance Street Houses are a rare example of stone row housing in downtown St. John’s. The houses were built by prominent stonemason Samuel Garrett who built the houses in 1893 as wedding gifts for his four daughters. For this reason, the houses are also known locally as the “Four Sisters.” Following the construction of 31 and 33 Temperance Street Garrett began the project for which he is best known, Cabot Tower. Construction on Cabot Tower ran from 1898-1900, during which time Garrett worked intermittently on the Temperance Street Houses – allegedly having his crew work on the homes when poor weather prevented the work on Signal Hill. 35 and 37 Temperance Street were not completed until 1901 and 1903 respectively. Only two of the Four Sisters, 35 and 37, were actually lived in by Garrett’s daughters. The other two were rented until Garrett’s grandchildren were old enough to take up occupancy. The Temperance Street Houses were all occupied by Garrett’s descendants until the sale of 31, 35 and 37 Temperance Street in the 1980s.
The stone used to build the Temperance Street Houses was salvaged from the demolition of St. George’s Hospital, a barracks-turned-hospital built on Signal Hill in the late 1830s. Some of this same stone was also used by Garrett in the construction of Cabot Tower. Built in a bedrock cliff, the Temperance Street Houses have two storeys visible from the street, with a basement level visible on the rear of the house where the grade of the hill is lower. The basements once contained interior connecting doors that allowed family members to visit each other without going outside; these doors have since been walled over. The stone walls of the houses are two feet thick, with an air gap between the stone and the interior wooden framework to provide insulation and prevent rot. The pedimented, peaked dormers set in the mansard roof are typical of Second Empire architecture – the predominant building style in post-Great Fire St. John’s. Garrett personalized each house by framing each of the doorways with a different decorative moulding. The Temperance Street Houses are among the last post-Great Fire houses left in an area of the waterfront now largely industrialized.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John’s – Temperance Street Houses – FPT 1653”
Character Defining Elements
All original features which relate to the age and Second Empire style of the buildings, including:
-two-storey height, with basement levels;
-slate roof tiles;
-number, style and placement of brick chimneys;
-dentils on eaves;
-cut stone facade, with sandstone salvaged from St. George’s Hospital and Cabot Tower construction;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden storm windows;
-decorative brickwork around windows;
-rounded arch rear windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of pedimented dormers and their windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-transom above front door;
-distinct decorative moulding around each of the main doorways;
-stone sills, and;
-dimension, location and orientation of buildings.
All environmental elements which reflect the relationship between these buildings, including:
-proximity of each building to its identical neighbours, and;
-proximity to Samuel Garrett’s former home at 2 Duckworth Street.
Location and History
City of St. John's
31, 35, 37 Temperance Street
1893 - 1901
Rectangular Short Façade