Description of Historic Place
The Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District stretches from Point of Beach to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, along Water Street and surrounding areas and within the Town of Harbour Grace, Conception Bay North. The district is primarily residential with commercial properties interspersed, and it includes all land, buildings, structures and rock walls confined to the district boundaries set down by the municipality.
The heritage values of the Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District lie in its historic associations, its varied architecture, and its environmental qualities.
The Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District has historical value because of its long history as a primary port in the province. Harbour Grace was likely to have been a major harbour for European fishers from the mid-1500s and became a colony in 1617 through a formal grant by the Newfoundland Company. It had previously been occupied by pirates such as Peter Easton and Sir Henry Mainwaring, who fortified parts of the present day district.
Throughout the 18th century Harbour Grace was an important centre for the Conception Bay fishery and a major port of entry for supplies. In the 1760s the town began to develop its institutions and its first church, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, was constructed in 1764. With the diversification of the fishery into sealing and the Labrador fishery at the beginning of the 19th century Harbour Grace grew larger and more important to the colony. This stable resource industry inspired other types of development - economic, cultural and institutional.
It was because of these advances that the area opposite the ocean, on Water Street, became a prosperous neighbourhood. Along Water Street a range of five stone shops were built, schools began to emerge and churches grew in number and importance. The stone courthouse, built in 1830 is an indication of the power and place of Harbour Grace in the middle of the 19th century. However, a series of poor fisheries during the 1870s and 1880s, followed by the bankruptcy of a number of principal merchants, among them the Ridleys, lead to economic collapse. Matters were not helped by a series of devastating fires which consumed parts of the town. Despite the fires, Harbour Grace retains a considerable number of fine 19th century structures. The intactness of the area is symbolic of the once thriving town that relied so heavily on the fisheries.
The district is architecturally distinct because the buildings within the district are varied, yet cohesive, with different styles and choices of materials being employed in a wide variety of sizes and functions. Examples include brick and stone construction, and vernacular interpretation of high styles in domestic, institutional and commercial buildings. Within the district are many buildings with provincial and municipal heritage structure designations bestowed on them. Also included in this district are numerous rock walls and wrought iron fences which are original to the properties.
The district holds the oldest stone courthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador, a National Historic Site, as well as some very fine examples of 19th century merchant homes in relatively unchanged condition. Three early churches are included in the area. St. Paul’s Anglican Church is the oldest stone church in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception was seat of the Roman Catholic diocese for over a century Also within the district are a Customs House and the residence of the Customs Official, Hampshire Cottage, in close proximity to each other and to the harbour.
The Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District has environmental value due to its location near the harbour, as well as being a cluster of related 19th century structures. The neighbourhood has regularly spaced houses with large front yards and ornate fence work. More formal structures, like the courthouse and customs house, punctuate the residential precinct with their distinctive and individual characteristics. The open prospect over the water is a significant natural viewplane that is an important attribute of the district and this openness of the land to the south side of Water Street gives the district a distinct waterfront character.
Source: HFNL file #1105 - Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District
The character defining elements that embody the heritage value of the Harbour Grace Registered Heritage District include:
All those features related to the prosperous and long history as a primary Newfoundland port, including:
-the proximity to the harbour; and
-the cohesive flow of the district from Point of Beach to the Roman Catholic Cathedral.
All those architectural features that are representative of 19th century Harbour Grace, including:
- the regularly spaced houses with large setbacks and yards;
- original ornate wrought iron fences;
- early stone walls;
-19th century domestic vernacular merchant house styles, including roof shapes, bay windows, exterior wooden sheathing, towers, all trims, door and window shapes, verandahs, massing, size, orientation towards the Atlantic Ocean; and
- 19th century formal stone building style, including alternating brick and stone sheathing, roof shape, quoining, eaves brackets, lintels, window and door openings, massing, size, orientation towards the Atlantic Ocean.
All those environmental features of the district that speak to the importance of the location, including:
- unobstructed viewplane at the south side of Water Street overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Harbour Grace harbour; and
-open space and landscape features.