These photographs are courtesy of Terry Connors
A change to the National Housing Act in 1949 permitted joint ventures between the federal and the provincial governments to build public housing. Newfoundland was the first province to take advantage of the new arrangement and project St. John’s F.P. 1/50, known as Westmount, was developed to provide replacement housing for the residents of the central core of St. John’s.
Twenty-two double duplexes were completed by 1951 at a total cost of $1,132,000. The development contained 100 three-bedroom and 40 four-bedroom dwellings. The duplexes were built surrounding the buildings of the Ebsary Estate.
Each dwelling had plumbing and electricity; an oil range in the kitchen supplied hot water and space heaters provided heat. To the former residents of the central core, their new homes did seem like mansions.
It did not take long for the stigma to develop. Described as “the crowd from the worst slums in the city” and blamed for every act of vandalism that occurred in the neighbourhood, the new residents were not welcome. Friction quickly developed between the residents of the public housing dwellings and the home-owners of the area.
Inadequate maintenance and poor building materials contributed to the rapid deterioration of this housing. By the 1960s a major renovation programme was required in order to repair roofs and to replace siding and windows.
Despite protests from home-owners, other public housing developments were built during the 1950s and 1960s as replacement housing for the residents of the central core. Much of the sub-standard housing was demolished during the 1960s. In addition to a new public housing development for the central core, a new city hall, opened in 1970, was built on New Gower Street, the southern boundary of the area.