On our Radar — Jan. 18, 2014

S.O. Steele Building in St. John’s, built in 1894, vacant since 2011

Published on January 18, 2014
The S.O. Steele Building, formerly home of Breakwater Books, has been vacant since 2011 after it was damaged by a 2010 fire in an adjoining building.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram


June 12, 2010

A four-storey building on Duckworth Street in St. John’s that served as the offices of law firm Roebothan, McKay & Marshall catches fire. Consisting of two structures with a firewall separating them, the fire spread from the east building to the west one. Firefighters eventually decide to tear down the east building in a controlled fashion with an excavator.

The former S.O. Steele Building on Water Street, a registered heritage structure built in 1894 that houses local publisher Breakwater Books, was attached at the back to the Roebothan, McKay & Marshall building. A firewall prevented flames from getting inside it, but the structure sustained smoke and water damage. Breakwater Books purchased the building after S.O. Steele & Sons Ltd. closed in 1989.


August 2010

Breakwater Books president Rebecca Rose tells The Telegram she hopes to be back in the Water Street building by the end of November. That date would coincide with the end of a lease on its temporary office space in downtown St. John’s.

Roebothan, McKay & Marshall partner Steve Marshall tells The Telegram his law firm has made arrangements to take over the fifth floor of the Paramount Building on Harvey Road. He said no decision has been made on what to do with its Duckworth Street property.


Oct. 1, 2010

On its Twitter account, Breakwater Books announces it has moved back into the Water Street building.


November 2011

In its newsletter, Breakwater Books announces it is moving its offices to a property on Stamp’s Lane in St. John’s.


Sept. 4, 2012

At a St. John’s council meeting, a report from the Heritage Advisory Committee states that KMK Development is seeking the city’s permission to tear down the S.O. Steele Building. The committee's recommendation is deferred. Deputy mayor and committee chair Shannie Duff said council needed more information before it could vote on the matter.


Sept. 17, 2012

Council rejects KMK’s application to demolish the building. The city’s building and property management department inspected the structure and reported to council that it is in good condition, inside and out.

Shannie Duffs tells CBC’s “St. John’s Morning Show” before the council meeting that a numbered company has purchased the property since the fire. She says it is her understanding the demolition of the S.O. Steele Building will pave the way for developing all properties impacted by the 2010 fire.


Oct. 9, 2012

Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary brings forward a motion to designate the 100 Water St. property a heritage building under the St. John’s heritage designation bylaw. Council unanimously passes it.


January 2014

The Telegram has confirmed that parties associated with Roebothan, McKay & Marshall have purchased the former S.O. Steele property from Breakwater Books. The Telegram contacted the offices of law firm partners Steve Marshall and Glen Roebothan, and the office manager, but did not receive a response from either party.


The Telegram has been following this story for 3 1/2 years.



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