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The Thorndyke Registered Heritage Structure

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

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

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

Heritage Value

The Thorndyke was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988 due to its aesthetic, historic and cultural value.

The Thorndyke has aesthetic value as it is an excellent example of Queen Anne architecture in Newfoundland 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. Furthermore, there are two 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 interior of the Thorndyke is also well preserved including some elaborate woodwork in some of the doorways and stairs. The house was built from wood that Captain John Thornhill salvaged from a nearby shipwreck.

The Thorndyke has further aesthetic value for it environmental setting. It is a part of a larger grouping of grand houses in the waterfront area of the community. This location in relation to the other houses is yet another testament to the dominance of the Banks fishery in the early 20th century. Furthermore, the location of the Thorndyke on the waterfront is a reminder of the importance of the ocean and its resources.

The Thorndyke has historic value 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.

The Thorndyke has cultural value as 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: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Grand Bank - The Thorndyke – FPT 3”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building's Queen Anne design including:
-Assymmetrical facade;
-exterior decorative elements;
-size and scale of house;
-location of house on waterfront;
-name of house;
-stained glass windows in sun porch;
-2 storey double bay windows;
-juliet balcony;
-window style and position on façade;
-narrow clapboard;
-interior woodwork;
-missing rear corner of house.

Notes of Interest

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
Significant 1917 - 1917
Style Queen Anne (Modified Shingle Style)
Building Plan Square
Website Link