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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Wakeham Sawmill is a two storey, hand cut wooden sawmill originally constructed as a fishing stage in Petite Forte and relocated to Placentia where it presently sits. The building is designed in a vernacular, industrial style and has numerous windows, particularly on the second floor. It is sheathed in narrow wooden clapboard and sits next to the Orcan River which once ran under the building. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Wakeham Sawmill has been designated a Municipal Heritage Building because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural values. Historically, this building is valued for its age and its varied uses. Originally constructed as a fishing stage in the outport of Petite Forte by John Wakeham in 1912, it was partially dismantled and transported onboard a schooner across Placentia Bay in 1942. It was reassembled at its current location in Placentia, where it housed a carpentry and sawmill business operated by brothers Cyril and Leonard Wakeham.
The mill was the center of business for the Wakeham brothers who ran multiple operations from the building and it was crucial to the boat builders of the area. The sawmill is also associated with the American resettlement of Inner Placentia Bay and the building represents one of the earliest relocated buildings before state sponsored resettlement.
Wakeham Sawmill retains the original structural and design features specific to its intended use as a fisheries building and for this reason it is aesthetically valuable. This design is revealed in its appearance as a vernacular, painted, wooden fisheries building exhibiting features of that form, as well as features reflecting its adaptive reuse as a carpentry business with an on-site sawmill. Modifications for the building’s second function included the addition of four windows on the upper south side; inserting a trap door in the floor for disposing of sawdust into the running river below; replacing two second storey windows with a double door; and erecting steps to the new door which have since been removed. The interior of the building retains its sawmill infrastructure (benches, machinery, hardware), as well as unfinished surfaces including exposed beams, rafters, timber walls and wood floors.
The “shored up” post and beam fishing stage foundation was maintained, and was well suited to the building’s use as a sawmill. At the time that Wakeham Sawmill was erected in Placentia, Orcan River flowed under the building such that logs could float from neighbouring Southeast to the sawmill. The boundaries of Orcan River have since been altered to protect low-lying Placentia, so Wakeham Sawmill now stands on dry land.
Part of the cultural value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its status as a traditional fishing stage adaptively reused. Wakeham Sawmill also played a significant role in the local economy at its current location, as a site for processing a natural resource for commercial purpose, producing wood products for the local market. Wood was cut downstairs, while the second floor was used for making doors, windows, furniture, caskets, boats and other wood products. Wood from the mill was also used in the renovation and construction of other buildings in the area, both commercial and domestic, and by local boatbuilders.
Wakeham Sawmill also has notable community level status as a familiar landmark, and as a reminder of the former course of Orcan River. Furthermore, Wakeham Sawmill is the only building of its type remaining in Placentia proper. Today it still draws the older men of the community to its open doors as a community gathering place, much as a fisheries building would have experienced.
Source: Town of Placentia regular council meeting, August 19, 2006.
All those exterior elements that are indicative of the building’s age, vernacular design and historic functions, including:
-wood post and beam foundation;
-wood frame construction with narrow horizontal clapboard siding and vertical corner boards;
-painted exterior, including trims;
-simple door and window trims;
-mid-pitch roof with felt paper roofing;
-projection and simple trim of eaves;
-number of storeys;
-type, number, size and placement of windows and wooden doors, including trap doors in the walls and floor;
-its siting along the former course of Orcan River, related to its function as a sawmill
Newfoundland and Labrador
Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Technology and Engineering
Function - Category and Type
- Wood and/or Paper Manufacturing Facility
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, PO Box 5171, 1 Springdale Street, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5.
Cross-Reference to Collection