In 1832 when Newfoundland governed itself by representative government there was not a formal building set aside to house the legislature. The first home of the Legislature was a tavern and lodging house owned and operated by a Mrs. Travers. The stay was short lived as in the legislature haste and inexperience it forgot to vote approval for the funds to pay rent. For the next seventeen years they would meet in various temporary quarters. In 1846 an act was passed authorizing the construction of a Colonial Building as a permanent home.
On May 24, 1847 the cornerstone was laid by the Governor, Major-General Sir John Gaspar LeMarchant. The official opening of the Colonial Building took place on January 28, 1850 by Governor Lemarchant for the second session of the House's fourth general assembly.
James Purcell was the main architect and Patrick Keough was the contractor. Colonial Building, built in the style of neoclassical was constructed of white limestone specially imported from Cork, Ireland. The facade features a massive portico consisting of six ionic columns supporting an entablature triangular pediment. The pediment is decorated with the Royal Arms sculpted in deep relief. The interior hall is screened with ionic columns supporting a quadrangular lantern dome. the two legislative chambers, each with a ceiling height of twenty eight feet, are decorated with corinthian pilasters. The whole structure was built at a cost of £18,335.
In 1880 Alexander Pindikowski, a Polish fresco painter, then serving a 15 month prison sentence for forgery received a one month reduction in his sentence for the immaculate fresco painting work he completed at both Colonial Building and Government House.
Worthy of note is the fact that the governing party had chosen to sit on the left side of the House of Assembly as opposed to the traditional right side of the speaker because that's where the heaters were located there and it was the warmest part of the house. To this day the ruling party of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly continue to sit on the left side of the speaker of the house.
It was also the site of a number of political riots and disturbances. One of those was the public protest on April 5, 1932 for maladministration and corruption in government when all the windows were broken, doors smashed and furniture destroyed, which cost $10,000 to repair. The Prime Minister, Sir Richard Squires, barely escaped the building at that time.
The building was also the site of Newfoundland's first bank robbery in 1850. Located in the basement of the Colonial Building was the Savings Bank of Newfoundland and it was robbed of £413.
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