Description of Historic Place
Brigus is a small, picturesque town in Conception Bay, nestled around a sheltered harbour and surrounded by hills. The oldest developed part of town, near the harbour, comprises a visually appealing pre-Confederation townscape. It consists mostly of residential development but also contains the town’s public buildings and some commercial buildings. With wooden, two storey houses perched on rolling lanes and generous gardens fed by rivers and ponds, Brigus has been a favoured spot of artists for many decades. It is one of the few towns on the Avalon Peninsula that has preserved its historic character to such a large extent and in 1993 the Town of Brigus singled out the oldest part of the town and designated it the Brigus Historical Zone. The designation includes land, buildings, roadways, cemeteries and natural features as outlined in the Town’s Municipal Plan.
Brigus Historical Zone has been designated a Municipal Heritage District because it has aesthetic, environmental and historic values. Brigus Historical Zone features several Registered Heritage Structures that have been provincially designated, such as the Bartlett/Burke House, Hearn House, Landfall/ Kent Cottage, Stone Barn, Fowler House, St. George’s Anglican Church and Joseph Bartlett House. These have been designated largely due to their architectural significance. Hawthorne Cottage has achieved National Historic Site significance due to its associations with Captain Bob Bartlett, Master Mariner who lead Admiral Peary to the discovery of the North Pole.
Throughout the Brigus Historical Zone, architectural styles vary from simple biscuit box and saltbox homes, to the stone barn and elaborate churches. A feature unique to Brigus homes is what is called the “Brigus Porch”, characterized by a distinctive rounded roof and glazed doors and sides. Traditional Brigus architecture includes narrow wooden siding with wide trim, double hung windows, chimneys, dormers and two storey massing. Decorative features such as cornices, dentils, lattices, railings and brackets are also noted.
Brigus Historical Zone achieves environmental value through its general layout and landscape features. The district boundaries begin at the Roman Catholic Church at the northwest of the town and take in all that falls east of that line, as far as Riverhead on the south side of town and encompassing the shoreline. The rolling hills and narrow path-like roads compliment the flagstone rock walls which line the sides of the river canals of North Brook and Lambs Brook. These rivers flow through gardens and next to buildings and are integral to the landscape. They feed directly into Harbour Pond, at the north, where it feeds directly into Brigus Harbour, while a second pond, Beaver Pond, is located at the south of the district. The district embraces the traditional configurations of homes, water and land and their interrelationships.
Brigus was a town that grew slowly in its early years and during the 1800s it exploded with activity. The sizes, shapes and massing of its buildings reflect this 19th century affluence; however the history of Brigus goes back four hundred years to when English explorer John Guy first colonized the neighbouring community, Cupids, in 1610, less than one kilometre away. This was the second established English colony in North America, and it is assumed that Guy and fellow planters established plantations in Brigus shortly after their arrival. The following years saw Brigus grow as a small fishing town, but in the early decades of the 19th century the building of sailing ships and the Labrador fishery made the community one of the most prosperous in Conception Bay and by 1839 the population reached 2000. The wealth of Brigus was also based, in part, on sealing and for years Brigus seal hunters were among the foremost in Newfoundland. The introduction of steam was a staggering blow that brought about decline after the prosperous years throughout the 1800s.
Brigus maintains a strong connection to influential residents, such as the Bartlett family and several generations of this family have made their place in history as arctic heroes. In political life Brigus played an important role as men from the community represented the district in the House of Assembly throughout the 19th century. Men such as Charles Cozens, John Leamon, John Bartlett and Nathan Norman were all members of the House of Assembly throughout the 1800s.
Source: Town of Brigus Municipal Plan 1993-2003 (Amended)
All those elements that help define the 19th century character of the district, including:
-narrow wooden siding;
-wide wooden trim;
-historic, exterior colors;
-overall height and width the same as the original height and width of buildings;
-the numbers, sizes, shapes and orientations of windows as they were originally;
-roof directions, slopes, architectural styles and arrangements;
-original roofing materials;
-all dormers, cornices, brackets, chimneys, gutters;
-all original decorative architectural details;
-stone construction, including that of the Stone Barn;
-all fences and walls, particularly those constructed with flagstone;
-original path-like, narrow, winding streets;
-lack of commercial signage;
-all mature land, trees and gardens; and
-generous uses of green space interspersed with buildings and bodies of water.