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The Thorndyke Municipal Heritage Site

The Thorndyke, Grand Bank, NL
The Thorndyke, Grand Bank, NL
The Thorndyke, Grand Bank, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Description of Historic Place

Built in 1917, for prominent fishing Captain John Thornhill, The Thorndyke is a two-and-a-half storey, Queen Ann style wooden house in Grand Bank, NL. The Thorndyke is part of a larger grouping of grand houses along the waterfront in the community. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Thorndyke has been designated a municipal heritage site by the Town of Grand Bank due to its aesthetic, historic and cultural values.

The Thorndyke has aesthetic value as it is an excellent example of Queen Anne architecture in Newfoundland and Labrador and one of the best examples of this style in Grand Bank. The exterior of the house features some ornate details that are characteristic of the Queen Anne style, including a “widow’s walk.” There are twin two-storey bays on one side of the house and none on the other. This asymmetry is characteristic of the Queen Anne style. There are also a number of unusual architectural features that reflect the personality of the original owner, Captain John Thornhill. For instance, the importance of the ocean to Thornhill is evident in the sun porch on the front of the house that features stained glass windows in the colors of the international marine flag for the letter “T.” Furthermore, the ocean is visible from all windows of the house and further reflects Thornhill’s connection to the sea. Another reflection of Thornhill’s personality can be seen at the back corner of the house. Thornhill had purchased a new car that would not fit past the house to the garage in the back. To alleviate this problem he cut off a corner of the house.

The Thorndyke is also aesthetically valuable for its building materials. The house is built from wood that Captain John Thornhill salvaged from a nearby shipwreck.

The Thorndyke has additional aesthetic value due to its environmental setting. It is a part of a larger grouping of grand houses , often referred to as the “painted ladies,” in the waterfront area of the community. This location, in relation to the other houses, is a testament to the dominance and prosperity of the Banks fishery in early 20th century Grand Bank. Furthermore, the location of the Thorndyke on the waterfront is a reminder of the importance of the ocean and its resources.

The Thorndyke is historically valuable for its association with Captain John Thornhill. Thornhill was a prominent fishing captain in Grand Bank in the early 20th century, during the boom of the Banks fishery. He owned a number of vessels and captained others, such as the crew he captained in 1922 that caught the largest catch on the Grand Banks. Known to be a very determined and resourceful man, Thornhill built the biggest house in the town, despite the fact that he was not the richest man in the community. It was unusual for a fishing captain to build such a grand house but the Thorndyke rivalled even the houses of the incredibly prosperous merchants of Grand Bank.

Culturally, the Thorndyke is important because it evokes a certain sense of time and place. It stands as a physical reminder of a time when the Grand Banks fishery was very prosperous. The economic boom of the fishery was apparent in the grand houses that were common in Grand Bank during this period.

Source: Town of Grand Bank Regular Council Meeting Motion #2007-927, March 12, 2007.

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building's Queen Anne design including:
-use of traditional materials;
-hip roof;
-eaves bracketing;
-two-and-one-half storey construction;
-placement, style and size of peaked dormer;
-cresting on roof;
-chimney style and placement;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-corner boards and other defining trims;
-wooden window size, style, trim and placement;
-two-storey double-bay windows;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior doors;
-front sun porch placement, style and size;
-stained glass windows in sun porch;
-Juliet balcony on second storey;
-missing rear corner of house;
-asymmetrical facade;
-dimensions of building;
-location in an historic area of town;
-orientation of building towards the water, and;
-name of the house as it relates to its original owner.

Notes of Interest

A schooner loaded with Nova Scotia lumber was shipwrecked on Miquelon Island, and Captain Thornhill salvaged the wood to build the house. Many of the furnishings were smuggled in from New England and Canada, including the direct pipe steam radiation system, which was smuggled in from Nova Scotia to avoid paying customs duties. The heating and plumbing systems were installed before Grand Bank had a water and sewage system. The sun porch features coloured glass windows arranged in four pane sections. These panes are the colours of the international marine flag for the letter "T" as in "Thornhill" and "Thorndyke", the name of one of the Captain's schooners. Soon after it was built, the Thornhills began to take in boarders, and for many years the Thorndyke was the only hotel on the west side of the Burin Peninsula.

Location and History

Community Grand Bank
Municipality Town of Grand Bank
Civic Address 033 Water Street
Construction 1917 - 1917
Style Queen Anne (Modified Shingle Style)
Building Plan Square
Website Link http://www.townofgrandbank.com