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Grenfell House Registered Heritage Structure

Grenfell House, St. Anthony, NL
Grenfell House, St. Anthony, NL
Grenfell House, St. Anthony, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Grenfell House is a two-and-a-half storey, wooden house with a steeply pitched roof. It is located on a hill overlooking the town of St. Anthony, NL. The designation is confined to the footprint of the house.

Heritage Value

Grenfell House was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1986 due to its historic and aesthetic value.

Grenfell House has historic value because of its associations with Sir Wilfred Grenfell. Grenfell was a noted missionary and philanthropist who came to Newfoundland in 1892 as a part of the National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to investigate the living conditions associated with the Labrador fishery. The appalling levels of poverty endured by the fishermen and local population shocked him. The next year, he decided to return with a team of two doctors and two nurses. It was the beginning of Grenfell's lifetime of service to the people Newfoundland and Labrador. With the assistance of the Newfoundland government, he established the first hospital on the Labrador Coast at Battle Harbour.

Grenfell returned each summer and attempted to improve the plight of the coastal people and fishermen. He believed that many of the problems on the coast stemmed from the fishermen being overly dependent on the merchants. Consequently, in 1893 he helped form a fisherman's co-operative at Red Bay. By 1909, there were eight such co-operatives in operation. Following a two-year absence from Newfoundland between 1897 and 1899, Grenfell returned and began to spend the winter months at St. Anthony. In the first winter, he supervised the construction of a hospital that opened in 1905. The same year he was responsible for the opening of the first orphanage in the area. In 1907 he was appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, and awarded the first Honorary Doctorate of Medicine ever granted by Oxford University. In 1909, Grenfell opened Newfoundland's first inter-denominational school and supervised the building of his own house.

The summer months were spent on fund raising and recruitment tours in England, Canada and the United States. The creation of co-operatives and the fund-raising tours brought Grenfell into conflict with the National Mission. In 1912 the conflict led to the establishment of the International Grenfell Association (IGA) with its headquarters in the United States. Grenfell modified his home in St. Anthony and allowed it to become a staff house and a dormitory for the IGA.

By 1914 the IGA administered the affairs of four hospitals and six nursing stations along the coast of Labrador and northern Newfoundland. The religious aspects of the mission became subverted to medical concerns and Grenfell continued to spend much of his time on fund-raising campaigns and recruitment drives. By the time of Grenfell's retirement in 1935, the IGA had established five hospitals, seven nursing stations and three orphanages in the region. For all of his philanthropic work, Grenfell was knighted in 1927—the same year the IGA opened a modern hospital in St. Anthony.

The Grenfell House has aesthetic value because it is a unique example of 20th century housing for its location. The use of a sunroom, or conservatory, along the entire front façade, though unique to local housing at the time, was not unique for early hospital construction. Since this house was associated with medicine and improved well-being the sun room reflects Grenfell’s attitudes carried over into his own home. Exposure to sunshine was thought to have healing qualities. St. Anthony is located at the tip of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland island. The extreme weather often associated with this locality shows another purpose of the sunroom; to glean as much sunshine throughout the year as possible.

Designed in the New England Cottage tradition by Ash & Sons of Carbonear, the house has two-and-a-half storeys, a steeply pitched roof and dormer windows. The house was equipped with a coal furnace, steam heat, plumbing fixtures and electricity. It was a marvel in its day and is a testament to the capabilities of the tiny town of St. Anthony in 1909.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. Anthony – Grenfell House – FPT 1617”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that are representative of the building's New England Cottage design including:
-number of storeys;
-steep gable roof;
-chimney number, style and placement;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-wooden corner boards;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden windows;
-dormer size, style and placement;
-dormer window size, style, trim and placement;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-wooden transom windows on doors;
-size, location and style of sunroom, and;
-dimension, location and orientation of building.

Location and History

Community St. Anthony
Municipality Town of St. Anthony
Construction 1909 - 1909
Ash & Sons
Style 20th Century Vernacular
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade
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