Newfoundland became the 10th Province of Canada in 1949. Prior to March 31, 1949, Newfoundland was a British Colony, achieved after a century of conflict with France. As a British Colony, Newfoundland hosted a lieutenant-governor to represent the Queen and to manage liaison with the British Government. Government House, in St. John’s, Newfoundland was constructed in 1831 to house the Queen’s Representative, Sir Thomas Cochrane.
Manicured lawns surround mature trees and meticulously maintained grounds encompass Government House, on Military Road which was constructed in 1773 to join Fort William with Fort Townshend. The large and impressive stone mansion is accessed by a long paved and fenced driveway.
Behind the flower gardens, so bright and well-maintained they look almost artificial, a moat surrounds the basement floor of the building. I have heard a story where the plans for the Jamaican Government House were mixed up, on incorrect ships, with the plans for the Government House in St. John’s, Newfoundland. According to this fable, the Jamaican plans, with the moat, ended up in St. John’s and vice versa. Apparently the Jamaican Government House was to have a dry moat housing crocodiles for increased security. I can find no documentation supporting this story and highly suspect it may be a fabrication designed to promote colorful conversation. The official story states the moat, around the exterior, is there to provide light through the windows in the rooms of the basement floor.
Mélanie and I, without hesitation, march up to the side door and ring the doorbell. The window in the door reveals the opulent interior containing priceless antiques and artifacts, until the view is blocked by a formally attired butler who informs us there is no public access to the main house and suggests, rather haughtily, that we go around to the back. Well!
At the back, there is an official limousine begging for my photographic presence. There is also a set of double doors which lead inside to a small display room at the top of a short, wide, set of stairs. Exhibits in glass cases document past visits of Royal Family and historic events in the history of Government House. Beveled glass panes, in a locked double door, allow observation of the rich and luxurious inside of the main house.
After spending a few minutes examining the exhibits, we continue our self-conducted tour around the outside of the mansion. The grounds are expansive. One perfectly groomed area, the size of a football field and surrounded by mature trees, is off-limits and reserved for large outdoor gatherings or horseback riding ceremonies.
A large greenhouse occupies one corner of the building.
There is obviously great pride and attention to detail in the maintenance of the impressive structure. No expense has been spared. Trees are tagged, by botanical names and species, for those who wonder.
It is an interesting place for a relaxing walk among beautiful, immaculately maintained lawns and gardens where common folk like ourselves can ponder the realm of pomp and circumstance.
It is a part of our St. John’s Walking Tour which I feel deserves special attention. Government House stands testament as a historical landmark of British affiliation with Canada, and the Royal Family uses the dwelling on visits to St. John’s, Newfoundland. It is an official residence.