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Robert Tilley House Registered Heritage Structure

Robert Tilley House, Elliston, NL
Robert Tilley House, Elliston, NL
Robert Tilley House, Elliston, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

Built in 1858, the Robert Tilley House in Elliston, NL is a two-and-a-half storey, wooden structure with a steeply pitched gable roof. Located near the water, the Robert Tilley House is one of the cornerstones of the community of Elliston. This designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Robert Tilley House was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1985 for its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.

Built in 1858, Robert Tilley House has historic value for its association with prominent 19th merchant planter, Robert Tilley and his son Arthur Tilley. The Tilley family moved to Elliston (formerly Bird Island Cove) in the 1850s and established a merchant shop. They commissioned Allan Ryder of Bonavista to build the Robert Tilley House. Robert Tilley operated a highly successful merchant business until his death in 1872 - when his son Arthur took over the family business until the 1890s. During this period, the Tilleys had an important influence on the activities of Elliston including politics, infrastructure and education. After the Tilley’s merchant business closed the shop was rented to two Bonavista firms, James Ryan Limited and Phillip Templeman Limited while they were setting up firms in Elliston. Robert Tilley House is a testament to the success of the merchant business and the Tilley family in Elliston.

Robert Tilley House has aesthetic value because it is a good representation of 19th century vernacular architecture. A mortise and tenon structure built of heavy woods such as pine and hemlock, Robert Tilley House has withstood over 150 years of weathering and is a testament to the quality of materials and craftsmanship during this period. Robert Tilley House is an important landmark in the community of Elliston. Located near the shore, Robert Tilley House serves not only as an important part of Elliston’s cultural landscape but traditionally inshore fishermen used it as a landmark for finding their fishing grounds.

Robert Tilley House is also architecturally valuable for its association with Bonavista builder, Allan Ryder. Ryder also built a number of other buildings in the Bonavista region including St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Elliston which was partially paid for by the Tilley family.

Robert Tilley House has cultural value as a physical testament to the merchant way of life. Furthermore, it is provincially significant as a representation of the 19th century merchant/planter lifestyle. The only surviving relic from the community of Bird Island Cove, Elliston has been built around Robert Tilley House and is has been the centre of the community for a very long time.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Elliston - Robert Tilley House – FPT 291”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building's 19th century vernacular design including:
-steep gable roofline;
-mortise and tenon construction;
-type of wood (pine, hemlock);
-raincaps on windows;
-returned eaves;
-double hung windows;
-window position;
-dimensions, height and massing; and,
-narrow clapboard.

Elements that define the building as a landmark including:
-location in community; and,
-visibility from the harbour.

Notes of Interest

Arthur Tilley was granted a medal by the Royal Society of London for his part in the rescue of the sealing ship "Eric" in 1878 at Muddy Brook (Maberly) in which all lives were saved.

Location and History

Community Elliston
Municipality Town of Elliston
Construction 1858 - 1860
Allan Ryder
Style 19th Century Vernacular
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade