Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The R.J. O’Brien General Store is an early twentieth century, one storey commercial building located on Harbour Road in the community of Cape Broyle on Newfoundland’s southern shore. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The values of the R.J. O’Brien General Store lie in its architecture. A uniquely shaped building, O’Brien’s store has rounded corners at the front facade. With a shed roof and large plate glass windows with wooden shutters this store hasn’t changed since its construction in the early twentieth century. The recessed doorway has curved concrete corners with vertical grooves and the main door comprises a storm door of two narrow doors that open in the center, and a similar interior door. The original entablature has the name of the store, R. J. O’Brien General Dealer, a feature which is typical of an early twentieth century mercantile building. Other features which reflect the commercial nature of this building are the tiny rear windows and the curved, narrow plank loading doors located at the eastern curved corner. The exterior of this building is faced with narrow wooden clapboard, and the corners are sheathed in wooden shingles.
The interior of R.J. O’Brien General Store is equally valuable because it remains in its original early twentieth century condition. The floor is made of narrow softwood and the walls are sheathed in narrow plank, while the ceiling is constructed of tongue and groove wood. The walls are lined with original wooden shelves, some with drawers underneath. The office inside this store has a curved wall and wooden door, reflective of the exterior corners. This vernacular style store has changed very little since its original construction.
The R. J. O’Brien General Store is historically valuable because of the story that goes with the reason for the curved exterior corners. This store is located just below the family home accessed by the narrow driveway which runs directly next to it. Ronald (R.J.) O’Brien used to travel with his horse and carriage or sleigh, up the driveway to his home, narrowly passing the store. His horse was particularly fast and impetuous and used to get excited when it got near home. However, Ronald was unable to control the horse and it didn’t handle the turn well; every time they passed the store the horse clipped the corner. After many hard bumps and jolts Ronald became fed up with daily knocks and changed the sharp corners to curved corners to allow the horse easier navigation. The change worked and the horse never hit the building again. Ronald carried this unique design over to make the building symmetrical on the outside, and into his curved office doorway on the interior.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, property file number 2487 Cape Broyle – R. J. O’Brien General Store.
All those original exterior elements that embody the vernacular style of outport mercantile establishment, including:
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-shed roof with curved corners;
-curved exterior corners and faced in shingles;
-recessed doorway with split doors, transom and curved doorway;
-plate glass windows with wooden shutters;
-small rear windows, as well as all other original windows;
-loading door at eastern curved corner; and
-entablature with signage of original proprietor.
All those original interior elements that embody the vernacular outport mercantile establishment, including:
-all wooden finishes such as softwood floor, plank walls and tongue and groove ceiling;
-all original shelving, drawers and cabinets; and
-curved wooden office door and wall.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
Historic Resources Act
Registered Heritage Structure
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 Springdale Street, P.O. Box 5171, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5
Cross-Reference to Collection