Description of Historic Place
Located on the east coast of Labrador, Battle Harbour Historic District is a classic example of a traditional outport fishing community. The mercantile complex with its large wooden stores, dominates the landscape. Wharves and fish processing spaces animate the waterfront, while houses, a church, a doctor’s office and a police detachment speak to community life. The designation refers to the cultural landscape with its buildings and structures, including the western side of Battle Harbour, the southern end of Gunning Island, the eastern side of Great Caribou Island and the 1920s cemetery at the northern end of Battle Island.
Battle Harbour Historic District was designated a national historic site of Canada because, through their history, architecture and layout, the buildings, structures and open spaces which constitute the district are evocative of the 19th and early 20th-century fishing outports of Newfoundland and Labrador and illuminate the rich mercantile history of such traditional fishing communities.
The mercantile complex of Battle harbour founded by John Slade of Poole of England in the 1770s still dominates the landscape and symbolizes the preeminence of merchants in the economic and social order. Large functional wooden building such as the Salt, Flour and Salmon Stores, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the wharves and fish processing spaces, recall Battle Harbour’s roles as a major port in the Labrador fishery. The Gothic Revival Church of St. James the Apostle, the Grenfell Mission doctor’s cottage, police detachments and radio tower represent features of the metropolis of southern coastal Labrador up to the 1960s. Well-preserved fishing rooms, still occupied seasonally, evoke customs of the inshore fishery, sealing, bird-hunting and the seasonal migrations of the “livyers” of St Lewis Inlet. The cultural landscape preserves most strikingly the rich history, tradition and significance of Battle Harbour when it was widely acclaimed Capital of Labrador.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, November 1996
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the cultural landscape in its extent including the western slope of Battle Island with its irregular, terrain settled at the lowest level with wharves and fishing stages, at the second level with stores, outbuilding and dwellings and at the higher level with institutional buildings such as the church, and police stations as well as houses; and the facing shorelines of Gunning and Great Caribou islands with surviving buildings and structures,
- the spatial relationship of buildings, structures and open spaces,
- pathways between buildings and structures,
- the wooden wharves and boardwalks,
- the siting of the mercantile premises around the wharf complex,
- the large, rectangular, gable-roofed, barn-like massing and post-and-beam construction of the mercantile premises including: the Salt Store building in its 2 ½ storey, timber-frame construction, and stone-filed crib foundations; the longer Salmon Store; the Herring and Seal Stores; the General Store; Cookhouse/ Bunkhouse; and the Staff House,
- the ubiquitous wooden construction and cladding,
- St. James the Apostle Anglican Church with its rectangular, gable-roofed massing, Gothic-Revival style, ecclesiological design, clapboarding, two-storey, pyramidal tower, and original interior fittings,
- the two-storey rectory with low-pitched roof and two-storey porch,
- the two cemeteries in their locations and extent with surviving tombstones,
- the prefabricated Grenfell Cottage in its Picturesque design and highly visible siting,
- the water reservoir atop the hill,
- the one-storey Newfoundland Ranger Detachment office and dormitory,
- the 11/2-storey RCMP residence/office/jail,
- surviving private residences and fishing stage/store complexes in their massing, materials and vernacular design,
- the Isaac Smith House with its 1 1/2-storey saltbox massing and functional design with centre stairs, rear linney and front vestibule,
- remnants of fish stages, stores, shanties and outbuildings on Great Caribou and Gunning islands.