On our radar: Discussing the future of historic ‘Four Sisters’ homes in downtown St. John’s

Published on October 11, 2013
The “Four Sisters” on Temperance Street in St. John’s. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

    According to the Historic Places website, construction began that year on the first two of four stone row houses on Temperance Street in
St. John’s. Local stonemason Samuel Garrett built them as wedding gifts for his four daughters. After finishing the homes at 31 and 33 Temperance St., Garrett built Cabot Tower. He used surplus stone from Cabot Tower and materials from the demolished St. George’s Hospital to build the remaining homes. A basement door connected 33 and 35 Temperance St.
       Daughters Lauretta and Emily later married and moved into two of the houses. The remaining daughters, Eliza and Mary, did not. Their houses were used as rental properties. Two of Garrett’s grandchildren — Alex Macfarlane and Nellie Molloy — eventually moved into those homes.


    According to a story published in 2007 by The Scope, this was the last year that a living relative of Garrett lived in one of the stone houses.



    St. John’s business woman Judith Bobbitt lived in one of the homes, but eventually chose to move out due to the presence of sewage gases seeping into the house from below the ground.



    The houses were successfully registered as heritage structures.



    George Rumple Jr., an American serviceman who married one of Garrett’s great-granddaughters, returns to the city for an air traffic control reunion. He visits the house at 33 Temperance St. where his wife lived at the time they met and tells The Telegram he is proud of her heritage.



    Judy Macfarlane, another great-granddaughter of Garrett, tells The Telegram she is concerned about the deteriorating condition of the houses. Bobbitt, who owns three of the four houses (the fourth is reportedly owned by another St. John’s resident), says she will renovate and restore them once nearby water and sewer work is completed.

       “The Four Sisters” are discussed that year in relation to a proposed condominium complex on Temperance Street called The Narrows. Some opponents of the project cite the area’s heritage appeal. The City of St. John’s heritage advisory committee says at a December meeting that the “Temperance Street facade of the building should be parallel to the street and in line with the “Four Sisters” houses.” The city eventually gives the complex its final approval.



    CBC News reports that people are squatting in the vacant houses on Temperance Street.



    The Telegram attempted to contact Bobbitt to discuss the status of her plans for the properties, but she could not be reached for comment.

The Telegram has been following this story for 31 years