By: Micaela Muldoon
In the heart of Georgestown, on Hayward Avenue, two things that seem diametrically opposed to each other sit side by side: Century Park and Georgetown Pub.
The former is a welcoming, all-ages space. There is a swing set, which includes a baby swing; a basketball court, where elementary school children often have games; four benches that double as bleachers; a two colourful gardens; two picnic tables; and a lush green hill with a path running through it. There is also ample parking. The Century Park signage is less than two years old, as of September 2018. Some believe the name comes from “sanitary park,” since the area used to be a St. John’s sanitary facility. Others suggest that it could have derived its name from “sentry park,” as there was a military powder house nearby. Regardless of its former purposes, it is now a good place to play pavement games of any kind, to eat while viewing the colourful houses of the neighbourhood and the Appalachian mountains in the distance, or even to just to sit down and read a book.
Georgetown Pub sits across the street. Behind the bar, patrons can see cheeky signs, such as “I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.” Georgetown Pub serves some imported beers, like Guinness, and a few Newfoundland specialties, like Blue Star, India Beer, and Quidi Vidi Light. The building has a fair bit of seating, a pool table, two dart boards, some slot machines, a jukebox, and a karaoke machine. A banner in the corner of the bar advertises karaoke every Saturday, but when I went in there on a Friday night, karaoke was in session, complete with flashing lights. The pub also has annual events, like a Hallowe’en party and a Christmas party. There is no set demographic for the pub — early in the day, one might see people of retirement age having a drink in the comfy green chair at the back (the only one of its kind in the bar). Later at night, the crowd expands to include university-aged people and working professionals, who come in groups to have a round of drinks. At almost all times, at least one or two patrons can be seen right outside having a smoke and a chat, and perhaps petting Mittens, a local tortoise-shell cat who knows she’ll get affection if she stops by the pub. Georgetown Pub’s Facebook page boasts mostly five-star reviews. One commenter posts, “Home of the best karaoke in SJ. Great staff, great crowds, and a buttload of fun!” Another commenter goes one further and writes, “Basically a landmark.”
Earlier in the pub’s history, before it became the Georgetown Pub, it was the Corner Tavern, a men’s-only bar. The Georgetown Pub currently has a framed article from the 1970s, a piece about the Corner Tavern beginning to allow women in, the men bemoaning this change, fearing that the presence of women in the bar would ruin the environment of “male conviviality” and start fights between men who want to spend time with the same woman. The article’s presence in the bar seems tongue-in-cheek, as the concept of excluding women from Georgetown Pub is now laughable — women are more than welcome, and the pub has female bartenders. But the article does include some other interesting information: the now-red building with yellow trim was once a plain grey and white; it used to be “The Ashmen’s Inn,” a place for the men who drove the city’s horse-drawn garbage wagons to go get a drink. Prior, even, to that, the building was J.M. Fagan’s convenience store.
Both Century Park and Georgetown Pub have transformed over the years, a trait they have in common with many other places in Georgestown — lots of small businesses and stores have been converted into residences over the decades. According to Robert Sweeny, a resident we interviewed, this has been one of the most important changes within the neighbourhood; as more businesses closed, Georgestown residents were forced to go outside of the neighbourhood to get the things they needed, meaning there would be fewer interactions between the neighbours. “You chat with people in the cafe, you chat with people in the bakery,” says Sweeny, referring to the Georgestown Bakery and the Georgestown Cafe and Bookshelf, two of the few remaining Georgestown businesses, “but there would be a lot more chatting if there were fifteen stores in the neighbourhood.”
Unlike those former stores, whose names are sometimes remembered by people who can no longer recall which buildings they were housed in, both the Georgetown Pub and Century Park remain very public and welcoming social spaces. For all their vastly differing functions, indoors and outdoors, they still have that much in common — and that may be each place’s most important feature.