Stone House, a rock-solid witness to 187 years of history

Posted on September 24, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

If granite walls could talk, what stories the Stone House in St. John’s, N.L. would have to tell.

A handful of years after the death of the last Beothuk, and two years after the Colony of Newfoundland achieved Representative Government, immigrant Patrick Keough built the Stone House as his home in 1834. The property has gone through many changes in the 187 years since. While it started as a place of residence, Stone House eventually became a place of commerce.

 

 

Stone House was originally constructed in 1834 (Parks Canada)

 

 

Construction and Renovations

Located on 8 Kenna’s Hill, St. John’s, N.L., the original structure was a four-storey building made entirely of stone and brick. After being inhabited by Keough descendants throughout the 19th century, residential ownership of Stone House passed through many hands. 

The home has had significant changes throughout its history, most notably in 1917 and 1929 when Margaret and George Conway extended the roof for additional bedroom space on the second floor. This was a much-needed upgrade to accommodate their 22(!) children. Thankfully, additions to the home were made with wood, so the original stone construction remains.  

 

 

George (#12) and Margaret Conway (#14) with 18 of their 20 children, photographed outside the Stone House circa 1928. (virtualmuseum.ca)

 

Heritage Building Status

Due to its design and the historical significance of its original owner, the Stone House was designated a heritage building on April 10, 1985.

Original owner and builder, Patrick Keough, immigrated to St. John’s in 1829 to manage construction of Government House. In addition to building some of the city’s now historically significant structures (Fort William, the Colonial Building and St. Thomas’ Church), he also built a career in politics. In 1834, Keough began serving as an MHA, and in 1864 became a member of the Legislative Council. 

 

 

A 1991 advertisement for Stone House Restaurant

 

 

Stone House Restaurant 

In the 1980s, Kitty Drake and Penney Hansen opened a fine dining restaurant in the heritage building, calling it ‘Stone House Restaurant’. The menu featured ‘seafood, game and traditional Newfoundland dishes’, according to an advertisement in a 1991 edition of Atlantic Business Magazine

That same year, the restaurant received new management: Brenda O’Reilly, current owner of O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland Pub and YellowBelly Brewery & Public House. O’Reilly made changes to the business as soon as she started. She first extended hours to include lunch service and later added catering services, including a lucrative relationship with The Terra Nova Park Lodge. In the first year under her leadership, revenues at Stone House Restaurant doubled.

O’Reilly eventually purchased the rights to the business, which she has maintained. However, Stone House Restaurant closed suddenly in 1997 after a deal to purchase the building went sour. 

 

 

A photo of Stone House from 2005 (Canada’s Historic Places/Canadian Register of Historic Places)

 

 

Stone House Office Space

Today, Stone House is office space for Gittens & Associates, a local law firm. The legal practice has been the sole occupant and owner of the building since 2009. What was once a place of residence and a restaurant, has been converted into offices and meeting rooms. However, the aesthetics of the historical stone structure remain. A representative of Gittens and Associates noted: “Everyone remarks how beautiful the stone walls are”. 

If only they could talk.

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