Showing posts with label vernacular architecture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vernacular architecture. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A history of the Lane/Heffern House in Salvage, Bonavista Bay

The Salvage Fisherman’s Museum (alternatively, the Lane/Heffern House) was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by Heritage NL March 20th, 2020 due to its historic and aesthetic value. Supposedly the oldest surviving home in the area, the museum building was constructed sometime in the mid 19th century by members of the Lane family who lived in Salvage by 1830.

Heritage NL has been working with the museum committee on documenting the history of the structure, which has proven to be more complicated than originally thought. It may be that the building was constructed in two phases, which would explain some of the quirks of the building itself.

You can download the full report in pdf format and get all the architectural gossip right here

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Quick Reads in NL Vernacular Architecture: What is a Trunnel?


The photo above was taken underneath the Fisherman’s Museum in Salvage, Bonavista Bay, and shows the sill of the building, with a protruding trunnel. But what is a trunnel? 

A trunnel (also spelled treenail, trenail, or trennel) is a remnant of ancient building technologies which you can still see in some Newfoundland and Labrador historic buildings. A “treenail” is essentially that, a nail made from a tree: a peg or tenon.  Devine’s Folklore of Newfoundland defines it as “Corruption of trenail: a wooden peg, a foot or so long, used for fastening ships' timber, wharf sticks, etc.”

The use of wood as a fastener can be traced back over 7,000 years, and archaeologists have found traces of wood nails in the excavation of early European sites. When settlers arrived in Newfoundland, they brought their knowledge of trunnels with them, and used them in both house and ship building.  The Slade and Kelson Diaries, Trinity, for Monday 16th, April 1832, reports that a leak in the Caroline was found to have been caused by a “trunnel vacuum” - a hole left where a trunnel should have been driven in. 

Treenails are cut from a single piece of wood, and used so that the grain of the treenail runs perpendicular to the grain of the receiving wood. This adds structural strength to the joint. Hardwoods were preferred, and when they couldn't be found in Newfoundland, they were imported, as the P. & L. Tessier advertisement below, from the Evening Herald of 1892-06-22, demonstrates:

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Visiting the Burgess Property, Whiteway, Trinity Bay.

Burgess Fishing Stage

The Burgess Property is a collection of 6 buildings in Whiteway, NL, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2020. Built and operated by an unbroken line of Burgess family members over six generations, the cluster of closely spaced buildings are part of a single family enterprise. Their continuity helps to imbue a sense of how the property was inhabited and operated for more than 100 years, and the diversity of buildings speaks to the variety of functions and income sources of outport family premises.

We visited the site yesterday, and are working with the Burgess family to document and better understand the history of the premises. Stay tuned for more info and photos on this group of structures in the weeks to come!

Burgess Dwelling House

Burgess Stable/Store (left) and sawmill (right)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Quick Reads in NL Vernacular Architecture: What is a Side Span?

The sheer weight of curing fish could cause the outer walls of a fish stage to bulge outwards, or even collapse over time. This necessitated an architectural innovation called a side span. A side span is similar in function to a buttress on a stone building and consisted of a wooden exterior brace on the side of a stage. Regarding the stages of Tilting, Fogo Island, folklorist Gerald Pocius writes,

According to Dan Greene, many stages in the past had a "side span" for support. This brace kept the side of the stage from breaking out when a large amount of salted fish was stored inside. These were essentially timbers that spanned out past the normal plane of the flooring, and braced diagonally on the wallplate to counteract any pressure. According to Dan, the typical sixty foot stage had three of these spans on each side. 

Above is a Tilting example, showing the side span on the Michael Greene Stage (photo credit: Heritage NL). 

For more on side spans, read the full article in our November 2020 "Heritage Update" newsletter


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Researching the Burgess Registered Heritage Property, Whiteway

The Burgess Property in Whiteway, Trinity Bay, is a registered heritage property which has been passed down through 6 generations of the Burgess family. The property consists of 6 buildings each with buildings used their own distinct purpose. The diversity of the buildings used by the Burgess family speak to the diversified functions of outport life throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and the different sources of income families accessed to make a living.

The Burgess family history certainly reflects a diversity of trades undertaken on the property. While many of the Burgess men were listed simply as fishermen in early censuses, there is strong evidence suggesting that Charles Burgess initially came over to Whiteway as a sailmaker, and later evidence suggests that the family was involved in shipbuilding at a nearby dockyard in addition to fishing and logging. Notably, the women of the Burgess family also played important and diverse economic roles in the family. Naomi Burgess, for example, was an active midwife and Jane Mave Burgess participated in the Labrador fishery in the early 1900s, and continued to impress young boys with her cod-splitting skills well into her '70s.

Research into the Burgess Property is currently being conducted by HeritageNL as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, and is currently seeking community and family participants to share stories and memories about the Burgess Property in Whiteway. 

Elizabeth Burgess carrying water from Jimmy Rowe’s Pond, courtesy Burgess family.

If you have a memory of the Burgess family or property, comment below or email

Friday, April 5, 2019

Reddin' lines and ochre boxes - how many of you have one of these in your shed?

photo courtesy David Boyd, Twillingate 

The primary use of red ochre by settlers to Newfoundland and Labrador was as a paint or stain colourant. One small example of its use as a colourant can be found in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, which includes the compound word “ochre-box” meaning a “container in which ochre and water are mixed and a length of string dipped to mark timber for sawing,” also called a reddening box (Story et al. 355). In July 1964, Dorman Miles of Herring Neck described the use of such a box for researchers John Widdowson and Fred Earle:

They’d have the reddin’ lines, the used to call it. They used to strike the [log] with a marking line, with red ochre on it. That would leave the mark on the log where he wanted to come along and saw (Story et al. 408).

In July 1967, Raymond Morey, a resident of La Scie, described the box for the same researchers:

A red’ning box, you know, but some people call it a ochre box. This is a old red’ning line I was telling about lining the sticks. You use ochre in there and a drop of water (Story et al. 408).
Carpenters today are familiar with the more modern chalk lines that work in a very similar way. The handmade example in the photo above comes from the collection of Mr David Boyd, Twillingate, who runs the Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Centre ( If you drop by this summer, I'm sure he'll show it to you!

Work cited

Story, George, et al. Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Second Edition. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1990. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Looking for people who remember making red ochre paint.

Restoring a stage in St. Julien's. Photo Heritage NL.  

Heritage NL is in the process of rejigging our historic paint colours chart and we would love your help. In particular, the Intangible Cultural Heritage office is doing some additional research on the historic and more recent use of red ochre as a paint pigment.

Back in 2016, we posted an interview on the blog with the late Mr. Gerald Quinton, of Red Cliffe, Bonavista Bay, talking about the use of red ochre and lime whitewash. You can go back and listen to that interview here:

People have been using variations on red (or yellow, or brown) ochre for pigments for hundreds if not thousands of years. Finland and Sweden have a long history of using Falu or Falun Red Ochre for paint, which you can still buy commercially, or you can look here for 20 recipes for traditional types of paints from Denmark (including fish and whale oil based paints) or download this Finnish red ochre paint DIY sheet.

A traditional Finnish falu red log house in Äänekoski, Central Finland. Photo Wikipedia.

Many of these paints use some type of linseed oil, and we know that historically, linseed oil was used for the production of some types of paints here in Newfoundland and Labrador as well. In 1843, the St. John's newspaper "The Star And Newfoundland Advocate," (1843-11-23, vol. 03, no. 158 p3) included an advertisement from W & H Thomas and Co, noting the arrival of goods from London, Liverpool, and Hamburg, including red ochre along with other paints. The Morning Courier, (1849-01-04 p3) noted that Richard O’Dwyer at his new stone premises had, from Liverpool, London and from Greenock, Scotland, a variety of goods including paint, oil (type not specified), "spirits turpentine," varnish, and red ochre.

By 1890,  P. & L. Tessier in St. John's was selling kegs of Dry Yellow Ochre Paint, and a variety of linseed oils, including: 30-gallon barrels of "Pale Boiled Linseed Oil"; 30-gallon barrels of "Pale Raw Linseed Oil"; and 1-gal. drums of "No. 1 Boiled linseed Oil" (The Colonist, vol. 05, no. 117, 23 May 1890, p2)

Red Ochre on a building in Jackson's Arm. Photo HFNL.

In the early to mid twentieth century, a lot of outbuildings and fishing stages were painted using a mixture of powdered red ochre and some type of oil, often cod liver oil or seal oil. We'd love to track down anyone with memories of making this type of paint, especially anyone who might remember a recipe similar (or different!) from Mr. Quinton's Red Cliffe version.

If you know of someone who might be good to chat with, you can get in touch with Dale Jarvis at 1-888-739-1892 x2 or email 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep089 Victorian Architecture of Dunedin

Jeremy Moyle studied archaeology at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is currently a masters student in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University, doing his MA on the Victorian and Edwardian vernacular architecture of Dunedin.

In this podcast, we chat about his work in New Zealand, the historical and geographical context of his research, the history of Dunedin and its architecture, typical design and ornamental features of Victorian architecture in Dunedin, cast iron work and “modern” industries, the use of newspapers and historical photographs in vernacular architecture research, and how issues around class and status are reflected in the architecture of the time.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep heritage alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HFNL and CHMR Radio. Past episodes hosted on Libsyn, and you can subscribe via iTunes, or Stitcher. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Workshop on how to document old buildings! Nov 3rd and 5th.

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and Youth Heritage NL are co-organizing a workshop in field-recording for heritage buildings. The workshop will be lead by preservationist Emily Wolf and will cover field measurement (including US HABS standards), recording techniques, and documentary photography.

The workshop will take place in two sessions, from 7-9:30pm on Thursday, November 3, and from 11am-4pm on Saturday, November 5. The evening “classroom” session will take place at the Newman Building, 1 Springdale St., St. John’s. Techniques covered in the evening session will be practiced on-site during the afternoon session at the Squires Barn and Carriage House Registered Heritage Structure (part of MUN Botanical Garden on Mount Scio Road, St. John’s).

This workshop will be useful for architects and enthusiasts, folklorists, historians, or anyone interested in hands-on research in built heritage. The cost for this workshop is $10 and space is limited to 15 participants. No experience is necessary. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a camera (or a cell phone camera) to practice their architectural photography.

Warm drinks and snacks will be provided but do dress appropriately. The workshop will be rescheduled if the weather is uncooperative.

For more information contact Youth Heritage NL at or Michael at 709-739-1892 ext. 3.

Emily Wolf is a historic preservationist and lecturer in Boston Architectural College’s Master of Design Studies Program in Historic Preservation, teaching courses in architectural history and research and documentation. She formerly served as Architectural Historian/Assistant Survey Director at the Boston Landmarks Commission. A resident of St. John’s, she is a director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust.

Friday, May 20, 2016

#FisheriesFriday - Red Ochre and Lime Whitewash, an interview with Gerald Quinton

Back on the 24th of September in 2006, I did an oral history interview with Mr. Gerald Quinton at his home in Red Cliffe, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, on the topic of red ochre paint and lime whitewash.

We sat at Mr Quinton’s kitchen table, overlooking the John Quinton Limited red store below by the water’s edge, which was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of NL in June 1994.

Mr. Quinton was full of information about the traditional methods of painting fisheries buildings, dwelling houses, and fences, and shared his recipe for making red ochre paint.

Gerald Quinton: You’d get some kind of container, hey? A big container, and twenty pounds of ochre to a gallon of seal oil. That’s the mixture. Twenty pounds of ochre to one gallon of seal oil. And you’d mix it one year and use it the next. You’d use, like, a wooden paddle for stirring it, every now and then, something wide like a paddle, wooden for stirring it. You’d keep stirring it every now and then, probably twice a month or something like that. And you’d use it the next year then. But if you found it too thick, then, you’d thin it down a little with a little seal oil, if you found it too heavy to put on with a brush. It’d give you a heavy coat, a good coat, then. You wouldn’t have to do it twice, just the one coat is sufficient. So, it’s a good coat. Not much smell from it, seal oil. No, not much smell at all. Just a little while you’re stirring is all. It’s a good coat, b’y. Yeah, that’s right.

Mr Quinton passed away in 2009, but you can listen to the audio of the interview on Soundcloud here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rare photos of the Forest Road Cemetery Lych Gate and Mortuary Chapel #nlheritage

Followers of the ICH Blog may remember that I have been interested in lych gates, a very specific type of gate that was found at the entrance of Anglican churchyards and cemeteries. You can read more about the history of lych gates in the Occasional Paper #004.

In it, I talk about one of the province's vanished lych gates, the one which once stood in the Forest Road Cemetery.  I knew it had existed, and it is clearly shown on aerial photos and insurance maps, but I had never seen the building before.

Thanks to some detective work by Professor Frederick R. Smith, and the kindness of Mr. Arthur King, we now have this photographic gem - a photo of the gate before its demolition, likely taken sometime circa 1950-1952.

The lych gate is very similar to English examples, and has some similarities to the rebuilt lych gate at Bonavista. It features a sharply gabled roof, with slight bellcurved eaves, Maltese cross motifs, and at least two painted inscriptions, though the photo is just out of focus enough to make it difficult to identify the scripture being quoted (the word "resurrection" seems to be the second word). The woman in the photo is a Mrs. Butt, of the nearby Collier's Lane.

Mr King writes:

Here are some old Forest Road Cemetery photos I scanned from originals supplied by Mrs. Barbara Fry (Heale), a daughter of Victor Heale, caretaker circa 1948-59 . The family lived in the caretaker house on the cemetery. Photos of the entrance gate and old chapel are included. A daughter Elizabeth Heale, shown in the photo, was born in 1942---the photo with her was probably taken between 1950-52. The age of the old chapel photo is uncertain, but probably much before that time---it probably was taken by a commercial photographer such as Holloway as there is an inscription which was his style.

The Church of England Mortuary Chapel photo was said to have come from "The Archives" -- we are uncertain which one. If you have any information on these photos, if you have a theory on the most likely scripture being used on the lych gate, or have any other old photos of the Forest Road Cemetery, please comment below, or contact me at

- Dale Jarvis

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ICH @UVic Day Two - From Chicken Feet to Cowichan Sweaters

Tuesday was day two of the course on Intangible Heritage I'm teaching at the University of Victoria. We started out this morning, bright and beautiful, at the Gates of Harmonious Interest, marking the entranceway to Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Canada.

We had a busy morning, with the students starting off by doing quick sketch maps of the district, and then locating within the district examples of the five domains of intangible cultural heritage as defined by UNESCO:  Oral Traditions and Expressions; Performing Arts; Social Practices, Rituals, and Festive Events; Knowledge and Practices Concerning Nature and the Universe; and Traditional Crafts.

We then met up with Chris Adams of, who gave us a great tour and talk about Victoria's Chinatown and the link between the tangible, built heritage of the district, and the intangible cultural heritage that permeates it.

It was my first time meeting Chris, but I've met his father and company founder John Adams before (we even were on a panel together about ghost tours, back in 2009). Chris was a fabulous guide and raconteur, and introduced us to some fabulous places, a highlight being the Tam Kung Temple on the top floor of the Yen Wo Society building.

It is an incredible gem of a space, and one I'd never seen before.

After that, we had a quick lesson in the game of Fan Tan, and a lecture on opium dens, and then we went to the famous Don Mee restaurant for Dim Sum, including my requisite feed of chicken feet and egg tarts.

After lunch, we rushed back to UVic, for a chat about ethnographic documentation, including my tips for oral history interviewing

Then we had another treat, a visit from the very charming Alice Trueman, a knitter from Salt Spring Island. Alice grew up on Vancouver Island, and doesn't remember a time when she didn't knit. I conducted an oral history interview with Alice while the class listened and watched.

Alice was another gem of the day; she was a font of knowledge about knitting. We talked about the tradition, her involvement, and how the tradition of knitting has shifted over the years, and the knitting retreats she runs on Salt Spring Island.   

Alice spoke knowledgeably about many aspects of knitting, but particularly interesting was the discussion we had about Cowichan sweaters, a very specific type of sweater made by First Nations knitters in one region of Vancouver Island.

You can download an mp3 of Alice describing Cowichan sweaters here, or in other formats here, or listen below. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Another peak inside the Marshall Building/Stott Vaults, 123 Water Street #nlheritage #architecture

This week, the NL Historic Trust reported on its Facebook page about the possible upcoming demolition of the old brick and stone vaults located at 123 Water Street, shown in the exterior photo above, from May 2005. The Trust writes:
"St. John's City Councillor Sandy Hickman said today that the developer of the new Alt Hotel - which will likely occupy the vacant lot at the corner of Prescott and Water, the former Marshall Brothers property - considered keeping the vaults on the property but they are not structurally viable."
The Trust included a link to a fabulous set of photos taken by local photographer Paul Kinsman, which you can check out here.

The Trust and Kinsman both refer to the vaults as belonging to the Marshall Bros. store, but the earlier history of the vaults is linked to a merchant by the name of Stott.

The entire area surrounding 123-125 Water was destroyed in the 1892 fire. Prior to 1892 there was a stone structure on the site, which possibly belonged to James Stott, a liquor and spirits dealer. As a result of the fire, Water Street was realigned, so the location of the later-day 123-125 Water Street did not sit exactly on top of the building site that was pre fire. The older structure was set back from the current street line. It is possible that these vaults belong to the stone building that was destroyed in the 1892 fire. This would explain rubble that was uncovered on top of the vaults during the demolition of the building above it, which may have dated to the period of the fire.

According to research submitted by Neachel Keeping of the City Archives on June 6, 2005, the building over top of the vaults was owned and let to a variety of tenants. From 1880-1918, the owner/occupier was James Stott, General Merchant (Stott rebuilt on same site after 1892 fire). From 1918-1921, the owner was still listed as James Stott, but from 1923-1963 it was owned by the Stott Estate (Stott died sometime between 1921 and 1923).

This is what the interior looked like in October of 2003, prior to the demolition of the building above it:

Additional photos taken November 2004:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Folklore Photo - The Hole In the Floor and Adolphus's Wake

This week's folklore photo might not look like much, but it comes with a great story, and is a very good example of how intangible cultural heritage and our built heritage are intertwined. 

We've been working on an oral history of the Jenkins House in Durrell, Twillingate, which was owned for a portion of its history by Adolphus and Lucretia Jenkins. 

According to oral history, Lucretia contracted tuberculosis and suffered in the home for many years with the disease. She was confined to her bedroom while her daughter Leah Jenkins cared for her, surprisingly Leah never contracted the disease herself. While Lucretia was sick her husband Adolphus passed away. Adolphus was waked in the home, which was tradition at the time. Bedridden and unable to leave the upstairs of the house, Lucretia still wanted to see her husband one last time. The family decided, instead of trying to bring her downstairs they would saw a hole in the floor by the side of her bed so she could rest and still be able to see her husband, so that is what they did. Today, the cut in the floor is still recognizable by the newer boards that fill where the hole once was. 

Corey Sharpe remembers his Grandmother Leah recounting the story;
“Well, I tell you about that now. I never told anybody about it before. When father passed away, they waked him downstairs. So Lucretia was bed ridden upstairs with TB and separated from the family. She wanted to see her husband while they had him waked. So what they did, instead of bring her downstairs, they cut a hole in the floor so she could look down from her bed and see him. So the floors are to stay like that.”
You can download the full oral history report on the Jenkins House in PDF format here.

- Dale Jarvis

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"A rising tide lifts all boats" - Living with heritage in Bonavista

Notice - Annual General Meeting – Newfoundland and Labrador Historic Trust

Thursday March 19, 2015, 7 - 9pm
The Plantation, Quidi Vidi Village, St. John's, NL

Parking is limited so carpooling is recommended. New members welcome
Light refreshments will be served

Following the meeting there will be a special presentation by John Norman:


John Norman grew up in the historic community of Bonavista. During his university years, Norman purchased various pieces of vacant land and historic properties throughout Bonavista, which he believed were worth preserving. In 2014, blending formal education and professional work with a passion for built heritage, Norman (with Mark and Chantal Dickson) founded a new group of companies: Bonavista Living; Bonavista Creative; and Bonavista Creative Workshop.

The companies’ core principles are to restore and preserve the existing built heritage of Bonavista, systematically protecting and capitalizing upon its heritage resources, while creating a more livable community for all. They intend to restore numerous residential heritage properties, while fostering and promoting new and unique businesses that will contribute to the local economy, thereby enhancing the community.

Mr. Norman’s presentation will discuss the various ways in which his group of companies is making an impact in the region.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Youth Forum News, Memories of Childhood, and Fisheries Architecture

In the January 2015 edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update newsletter: Alanna Wicks invites youth aged 18-35 to the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador's first Youth Heritage Forum, set for March 7th, 2015 in St. John's; Sharon King-Campbell interviews Berkley Reynolds about his memories of growing up in Salmon Cove, as part of the Hoist Your Sails and Run games research project (including a fabulous story about cheating time in order to squeeze in an extra hour of cards); Memorial University of Newfoundland is seeking organizations who would be willing to host interns through the Department of Folklore's public folklore co-op MA programme; and Dale Jarvis provides an overview of the Fisheries Heritage Preservation Program and its work to safeguard the vernacular architecture of the traditional fishery in the province.

Contributors: Dale Jarvis, Sharon King-Campbell, Rebecca Newhook, Alanna Wicks.

Photo: Berkley Reynolds, circa 1955. Courtesy Berkley Reynolds.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hauling Pinkston's Forge: Heritage Building On the Move in Brigus

I've written before about the Pinkston's Forge in Brigus, Conception Bay. The Brigus Historical Society has been working to document it's oral history and stories. The photo above, from July 28th, 2014, shows Muriel Pinkston Wells, John Pinkston, and interviewer Dale Russell Fitzpatrick --  you can read and listen to their interview on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative (DAI).

It has been important to the Brigus Historical Society to document what they can about the forge, because the building had to be removed from its original location. Yesterday, December 15th, was moving day. The building had been covered in plywood to keep it together during the move, and hoisted up onto a sledge made of long wooden poles. A local company was hired to facilitate the move, and a crowd gathered to watch the old blacksmith shop be hauled to its new home near the Brigus Stone Barn museum. The old forge squeaked over the little bridge near Hawthorne Cottage, with only inches to spare on either side, and was then dragged to the new concrete pad that had been erected to receive the forge.

CBC has story on the move, and you can check out some photos on YouTube.