You may not know this but Victoria Row was not always the eclectic Victoria Row that it is today. It had another life in another time – it was The Brown Block and it has its own story.
John George Hamilton Brown Jr. was the original visionary of Victoria Row, but it was never his intention for it to be anything other than the Brown Block. Let me tell you a story of architect, love of land and the ghosts of 132 Richmond Street.
The British Warehouse was a dry goods store operated by John Brown Senior until it was destroyed in the fire of 1884. That tragedy quickly turned to an opportunity for John Brown Jr. – he wasted no time in buying up the property surrounding the burned out lot. Prominent local architects, Phillips and Chappell were hired to design the Italianate Commercial style buildings. Unlike the Cameron Block next door to the Brown Block, the three sections of Brown Block were not identical in their construction.
The design was also more decorative, being reminiscent of the Venetian arcades of the Renaissance period. The Brown Block remains one of the City’s well-preserved examples of this style. Despite various fires, including three that damaged the Brown Block in 1952, 1957 and 1971, the buildings have survived as a well preserved assembly of Victorian buildings in the City.
The new property replaced three row houses and a store called Cheapside – the beginnings of 132 Richmond Street were officially underway with the new construct.
Former occupants of this wonderful property were an interesting group. The main floor of the 132 Richmond Street section of the Brown Block has had various tenants throughout the years including the Stanley Bros. dry goods firm and Reddin’s Drug Store. The second and third floor of both the 128 and the 132 Richmond sections of the Brown Block building together played host to the fraternal organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, The Charlottetown Business College and Reddin’s dance club and tea parlour- the Rose and Grey Room. A salute to the past was made in the late twentieth century with the Pat’s Rose and Grey Room, a very popular dining spot for locals, theatre crowds, music lovers and tourists.
A new chapter has been written to the story with the opening of John Brown’s Richmond Street Grille. This latest addition to the Charlottetown restaurant community has borrowed heavily from the rich heritage of the past. As we write the beginnings of our own story, we hope that you will be part of it.
~Canada’s Historic Places