The structure built by the Congregationalists lasted until
1817 when it was destroyed in one of several Great Fires that ravaged St.
John’s in the 19th century. Rebuilt again, it was then used by several
denominations for visiting preachers, meetings, and social events. In 1853 the
Sons of Temperance purchased the building and rebuilt it after it was destroyed
in the Great Fire of 1892. The building was sold again in 1912, this time to
the Longshoremen’s Protective Union (LSPU). Victoria Street, where the LSPU
Hall is located, was originally known as Meeting House Lane.
The Longshoremen bought the Hall at least partially because
of its location. At that time the secretary of the union could look out the
window to see the flags on Signal Hill that indicated if any ships were coming
into St. John’s Harbour. In 1922 the building was again extensively damaged by
fire and was once again rebuilt.
In the decades that followed the union’s purchase of the Hall,
it was used for many purposes. Quite frequently the building was rented out to
members of the local community for bingo, speeches, and other social functions.
There were other buildings in the area that had similar functions, but the LSPU
Hall is one of the few buildings that remain standing. The LSPU Hall is the
only survivor from the heyday of downtown union halls, which for many years
served as neighbourhood community centres. They were the preferred location for
political rallies, being seen as a less biased venue that church halls.
The next major chance came in 1975. The hall was then being
leased by the Resource Foundation for the Arts who decided to purchase it from
the union in 1976. The group eventually changed its name to the Resource Centre
for the Arts (RCA). The RCA is a non-profit organisation committed to the
advancement of the performing arts and artists in Newfoundland and Labrador. In
the years since, the building has hosted hundreds of plays, concerts,
exhibitions, festivals, and workshops. It is one of the most important centres
for the arts in the province.
The LSPU Hall is located at 3 Victoria Street, near
Duckworth Street, in the old core of downtown St. John’s. While the interior of
the building has been extensively renovated over the years, the exterior
remains basically the same. A large timber-frame building with a wooden
exterior, one of the more unusual features is the massive stone-rubble
retaining wall that contains sections of the original retaining wall built for
the foundation of the Congregationalist Church in 1789. The building also has a
gable roof with ornamental exposed rafter ends supporting the building's eaves.
RCA's restoration of the building earned the organisation a
Southcott Award in 1984. The LSPU Hall was recognised as a Registered Heritage
Structure in October 1988, and was closed for nearly 2 years for extensive
renovations in 2008.
The Official Grand Re-Opening of the LSPU Hall happened on
October 5, 2010 with Gordon Pinsent’s play Easy Down Easy, directed by Mary