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James Ryan Tenement House

Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, A0C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1998/10/17

Exterior view of side and front facade of James Ryan Tenement House (Bonavista, NL); 2004 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
James Ryan Tenement House (Bonavista, NL)
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1879/01/01 to 1880/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/12/14

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The James Ryan Tenement House is a two and one half storey wooden building with a steep gable roof. Built between 1879-1880, this double residence is located on Old Catalina Road, Bonavista, NL. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The James Ryan Tenement House has been designated because of its aesthetic, historical and cultural value.

The James Ryan Tenement House has aesthetic value as it is an interesting and well preserved example of a nineteenth century double house, as well as being an excellent surviving example of a Newfoundland outport merchant’s staff house. Its style, while simple and uniform, presents a stately, respectable facade, the front permitting entry to the two separate living areas. In terms of its original function, the James Ryan Tenement House is one of few similar structures remaining in the province. Merchants would often build such houses to accommodate employees and their families, particularly senior management like Robert Brown of Scotland, one of the first residents of the James Ryan Tenement House. Modelling their properties on their English West Country predecessors, Newfoundland outport merchants often built plantation style premises, with their business properties, dwelling houses and gardens in close proximity to one another. The James Ryan Tenement House would have been part of such a premises.

The James Ryan Tenement House has historical value because of its association with the merchant firm of James Ryan. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Ryan operated one of the most successful outport merchant firms in the colony. He began his firm in 1857 in Bonavista, making the community the headquarters of an operation that had interests across the island and in parts of Labrador. His business was so lucrative that he had tenement houses built for some of his employees. The James Ryan Tenement House stands as a reminder of the economic success of the Ryan firm and its impact in Bonavista.

The James Ryan Tenement House has cultural value as it is a physical reminder of a specific time and place. During the 1800s in rural Newfoundland, St. John’s merchants began to replace West Country merchants and their agents. In many communities local businessmen also established independent firms, conducting international trade with Europe, the West Indies and South America. Some of these firms grew into very large operations, having premises in several different communities. Bonavista served as a base for several such firms. The community became a mercantile centre and was among the more prosperous settlements in the colony. The James Ryan Tenement House stands as a reminder of this past time and place.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property designation file M-035-009, Bonavista - James Ryan Tenement House

Character-Defining Elements

-number of storeys;
-steep gable roof;
-wooden roof shingles;
-bargeboard, finial and drop on eaves;
-narrow clapboard;
-corner boards;
-window size, style, trim and placement;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior doors;
-transom windows on front doors;
-placement of windows and doors on front facade to denote double occupancy;
-chimney number, style and placement;
-location and style of linhay on rear facade;
-stone foundation; and
-dimension, location and orientation of building.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Statute

Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Multiple Dwelling

Architect / Designer



Richard Ash

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador 1 Springdale Street St. John's, NL A1C 5V5

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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