St. John's Ecclesiastical District
St. John's, NL
This is a nationally recognized area in downtown St. John's (recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 2010). The national designation has formal boundaries, but the neighbourhood has more informal boundaries. The buildings date to the mid 1800s, but the area has been settled since the 1500s. There are several thousand people who live, work, and worship here.
The Ecclesiastical District is a pleasant place to walk around. Aside from the many houses, it has an exceptional collection of churches, schools, convents, a monastery, and associated meeting places, including a social centre for low-income citizens, a food bank, and a community centre.
It is the centre of much spiritual and social activity, from weekly church services to weddings and funerals and other functions.
It has a commanding view of downtown, overlooking the Narrows and the harbour.
The nomination for the National Historic District was led by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador with support from the Newfoundland Historic Trust, the City of St. John's, and the church congregations and other main property owners.
The bones of the neighbourhood – street patterns and municipal services – were laid out long ago by property owners, municipal engineers, and builders, going back to the 1800s. Architects designed the main churches. Planners have been involved in more recent years, with the creation of the St. John's Heritage Area in 1977 and the first St. John's Municipal Plan in 1984.
This neighbourhood holds some of the signature church buildings of Newfoundland, particularly the Roman Catholic Basilica and the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, after which saint the city was named. It is central to all who live in, work in, or visit downtown St. John's. It forms the skyline over the harbour and remains a vibrant place, daytime and nighttime.