Cabot Tower and Fort Amherst
From the Cabot Tower, we continued our loop walk, heading down to the Queen's Battery, a set of defences and barracks built in the 1830s. There are several nice cannon emplacements, complete with very slick positioning rails and wheels, allowing the cannon to be quickly turned or tilted to face enemies over a wide area - side-to-side and up-and-down. A reconstructed barracks building complete with interior completes the historic feel of the spot.
From the Queen's Battery, it was a short five-minute walk back to our hotel, completing our loop. Out at 7am, back at 9am. Not bad.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Trackmap, Signal Hill Walk
Next on the agenda was a closer look at St. John's colorful downtown. We checked out of our hotel and drove a short five minutes to the downtown core, where we found easy streetside parking.
The previous day, we caught a few glimpses of the iconic colored row houses for which the city has become known. Those glimpses were more than enough to whet our appetite for a closer look, and that is what we did now. We wandered through urban neighborhoods a few blocks up from the waterfront.
The thick profusion of tightly-packed houses, all painted in different colors and all sporting some kind of variant of clapboard siding, were very striking and quite pretty. Even the thick tangles of early-industrialization style utility poles and wires -- pretty much present on every street -- added to the persona of the place: they enhanced the feeling of a neighborhood that had a poor and difficult start to existance, but over decades upon decades had gradually turned itself into a hip, upscale, bright and vibrant place to live.
House detail, Gower Street
Pilots Hill and the harbour
Vertical color separation
I was quite intrigued by these brightly-colored row-houses, so I did a bit of research when I got back home. Firstly, these houses were mostly built during reconstruction efforts after St. John's great fire of 1892, which completely destroyed big parts of the city. In the wake of the fire, a local architect - John Thomas Southcott - strongly influenced the architectural styles during rebuilding, resulting in neighborhoods that generally shared what is now known as the "Southcott Style" - hooded dormer windows, curved mansard roofs, and bay windows. The style is considered a variant of the french Second Empire architecture, popular in the late 1800s.
Mix and Match intersection***
However, until the late 1970s, these neighborhoods weren't so colorful or 'upscale': As it turns out, these dwellings were originally quite drab in color and not always nicely finished. However, in or around about 1977 or 1978, the St. John's Heritage Foundation embarked upon a campaign to revitalize these historic neighborhoods, and it was under this initiative that the idea came to paint the rowhouses in bright colors, and to add fine window and corner trim.
And so what you get today as you wander the streets of these very pretty neighborhoods is a mix of history and bright modernity, nicely set against the maritime and fishing motifs that are prevalant in the city. It is quite a unique place and stands out distinctly from other cities that I've visited.
Ingenious Garbage Strategy
Andrew at Queens Rd Intersection
After taking in many blocks of the colored row-houses, we decided to visit some of the other city attractions, and we decided to have a look at a couple of St. John's big, old churches. The first was the large basilica of St. John the Baptist - an imposing Romanesque style church with a commanding view from the top of the city's hill. Constructed in the mid 1800s, it was one of the largest church buildings in North America when built.
Basilica of St. John the Baptist
TS 'Shift' Demonstration, Part I
TS 'Shift' Demonstration, Part II
It is indeed quite large and very handsome; it has a strong irish influence throughout, and contains a notable sculpture in front of the main altar - The Dead Christ, by Irish sculptor John Hogan.
After visiting the basilica, we started wandering downhill towards the waterfront, passing a few more churches (I quite liked the red-bricked Gower Street United Church building), more colorful row-houses, and down into the business district.
Gower Street United Church