Between Water and Duckworth Streets. Photo by Alex Pierson.
Second only to the CBTG’s deck, Solomon’s Lane is a choice spot for late night scenester-watching as show-goers pour out of The Ship for a smoke. The artists, musicians, and writers you see in the wee hours are merely carrying the area’s tradition of making and breaking the rules—a tradition which began back in the 1900s, when the Times newspaper took over the building that once stood in the empty parking lot below The Ship.
At the time, the lane was called Johnny Powers’ Lane, named after the blacksmith who owned the building before The Times. When The Times was replaced by The Evening Telegram, the bustling activity of newsboys collecting their morning bundles prompted the city to rename it Telegram Lane.
Across from The Evening Telegram, the Newfoundland Clothing Company was located in what is now CompuCollege. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the smaller shops nearby were host to a rotating number of businesses: liquor stores, a two-cent photo shop, an art school, and a ladies reading room. These shops likely catered to the many women working at the Clothing Company. On Water Street, beside the lane, what is now Oliver’s Restaurant was then a key meeting spot for suffragettes.
Eventually, wooden steps were cast in concrete, and the lane shifted towards offices, retail and nightlife. In the 80s, after the demolition of the Telegram building, the lane was officially named after Simon Solomon, one of the first known emigrants to Newfoundland of Jewish heritage. A watchmaker who emigrated from England in 1792, he set up a shop between Parson’s and Scanlon’s lanes. From that shop, he also distributed the mail, and became Newfoundland’s first post master.
Many older gay residents of St. John’s will remember Solomon’s, an early 90s dance club where Home on Water now resides. Home’s owner can still point out stool and bar marks which darken the wooden floors. “Our kid’s section used to be the DJ booth,” he says.
– Lola Mendez
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