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James Ryan Tenement House Registered Heritage Structure

James Ryan Tenement House, Bonavista, NL
James Ryan Tenement House, Bonavista, NL
James Ryan Tenement House, Bonavista, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

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

Heritage Value

James Ryan Tenement House was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1998 because of its aesthetic, historic and cultural value.

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. It was designed by James Ryan and built by Richard Ash. Its style, while simple and uniform, presents a stately, respectable facade, the front providing 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 bookkeeper 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.

James Ryan Tenement House has historic value because of its association with the merchant firm of James Ryan. From the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, Ryan operated one of the most successful outport merchant firms in Newfoundland. 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. James Ryan Tenement House stands as a reminder of the economic success of the Ryan firm and its impact in Bonavista.

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 file “Bonavista - James Ryan Tenement House - FPT 164”

Character Defining Elements

All those elements that define nineteenth century vernacular architecture, including:
-number of storeys;
-steep gable roof;
-chimney number, style and placement;
-wooden roof shingles;
-bargeboard, finial and drop on eaves;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-wooden corner boards;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of wooden storm windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-wooden transom windows above front doors;
-placement of windows and doors on front facade to denote double occupancy;
-location and style of linhay on rear facade;
-stone foundation, and;
-dimension, location and orientation of building.

Location and History

Community Bonavista
Municipality Town of Bonavista
Civic Address Hospital Road
Construction 1879 - 1880
Builder
Richard Ash
Style 19th Century Vernacular
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade