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Thimble Cottage Registered Heritage Structure

Thimble Cottage, St. John's, NL
Thimble Cottage, St. John's, NL
Thimble Cottage, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Thimble Cottage is a wooden, two-and-one-half storey saltbox house located at 150 Oxen Pond Road, St. John’s, NL. Built between 1850-1851 by farmer John O’Brien, it is a rare example of a nineteenth-century Irish farmhouse in Freshwater Valley, where more than twenty such homes once existed. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Thimble Cottage was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1992 due to its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.

Thimble Cottage has historic value as it is one of the oldest remaining farmhouses in St. John’s and is associated with agricultural settlement on the outskirts of the city. Oxen Pond Road is situated in Freshwater Valley, an area settled primarily by Irish immigrant farmers who produced food for local consumption, particularly for St. John’s and surrounding area. Pioneers such as John O’Brien developed a farming way of life that proved prosperous from the late 1700s into the twentieth century.

Thimble Cottage has aesthetic value as it is a rare example of the type of farmhouse built by Irish settlers in Freshwater Valley, an area on the outskirts of St. John’s until the mid twentieth century. Its saltbox construction would have been typical of the type of home built by early settlers in this area and in surrounding communities. Indeed, the saltbox style was an accepted form of early housing throughout much of Newfoundland. Also of note is the large central hearth, a typical feature of this house type. Employing mortise and tension construction and locally procured timber and stone, Thimble Cottage is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of vernacular builders in the region.

Thimble Cottage has cultural value because it stands as a physical reminder of a particular time and place. Freshwater Valley was once a rural community of farmers on the outskirts of St. John’s. Above the bustle of the growing city, farmhouses, outbuildings, gardens, fields and livestock peppered the landscape. Creating fertile fields from wooded wilderness, farmers in this area supplied city dwellers with fresh produce, providing the colony a degree of self sufficiency. By 1840, more than four hundred such farms were located within the boundaries of what is now St. John’s. Today only a handful remain. Thimble Cottage is an important component of the cultural landscape in an area quickly being developed as a compact, residential zone.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John's - Thimble Cottage - FPT 1655”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building's vernacular saltbox design, including:
-saltbox roof;
-two-and-one-half storey construction;
-boxed eave brackets;
-long overhanging eaves;
-narrow wood clapboard;
-corner boards;
-window size, style, trim and placement;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior doors;
-large central hearth;
-chimney style and placement;
-location and style of linhay on rear facade; and,
-dimensions, location and orientation of building.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 150 Oxen Pond Road
Construction 1850 - 1851
John O'Brien
Style 19th Century Vernacular
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade
Website Link