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Bleak House Municipal Heritage Site

Bleak House, Fogo, NL
Bleak House, Fogo, NL
Bleak House, Fogo, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Description of Historic Place

Bleak House is a two-and-a-half storey, gable roof, wooden house that was built atop a hill, in Fogo, NL evidently in the first half of the nineteenth century. The house is representative of nineteenth century merchant homes and has been occupied by three of the most prominent merchant families in the history of Fogo. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Bleak House has been designated a municipal heritage site by the Town of Fogo due to its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.

Bleak House has historic value due to its age and its connection to mercantile firms. It is likely the oldest house in Fogo and certainly one of the most historically important residences. It stands as a testament to the business success of the Slade, Owen and Earle merchants in Fogo during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Slade family ran a highly successful fish merchant business in both Twillingate and Fogo. Records suggest that Bleak House was built around 1826-1827. John Slade (1819-1847), manager of the Twillingate premises, also represented the Fogo-Twillingate district as the youngest member of the House of Assembly in Newfoundland history at the age of 23. The Slade family lived in the Bleak House until the mid-19th century when it was sold to Slade’s former bookkeeper, John Owen. Owen married advantageously and built a successful business in Fogo. In 1897 Owen’s partner, Henry Earle, bought the property. Earle and Company was the most successful merchant business in Fogo and Twillingate from 1902 until 1967, when the fishery collapsed.

Bleak House has aesthetic value as an example of a 19th century merchant house in rural Newfoundland, manifesting the distinction between the merchant class and the fishing class in rural Newfoundland. The original portion of the building is a stately two-and-a-half storey, wooden house with a long, symmetrical façade emphasized by narrow clapboard siding, a gallery across the front, and a steep gable roof clad with wooden shingles and pierced by brick chimneys. The overall appearance and size of the house in the context of the community is a testament to the prominence of the families who once lived there.

Bleak House also has aesthetic value due to its environmental setting. It is located atop a hill overlooking the harbour and community of Fogo, and near the former site the business premises that used to be the heart of its commercial enterprise. This prominent location reflects the status of the merchant families who lived there and their ties to the fishing industry that sustained them. The house is an important built feature of Fogo’s cultural landscape.

Bleak House has cultural value as a remnant of a past way of life. Merchant houses are reminders of the influence that merchants had on the development of rural Newfoundland.

Source: Town of Fogo town council meeting minutes of 2008/02/29

Character Defining Elements

Exterior elements of the original portion of the house which make it architecturally valuable and reflect its age:

-size, dimensions and two-storey height;
-steep gable roof with minimal overhang;
-symmetrical design of façade, with central entrance;
-symmetrical window placement and sizes;
-gallery with railing at the front of the house;
-narrow clapboard siding;
-wooden shingle roofing;
-wooden windows with plain trims;
-brick material of chimneys;

And the prominent location of the house within the community.

Notes of Interest

Bleak House was likely originally a rectangular, two-and-a-half storey, centre-hall dwelling with a saltbox roof and five windows at the upper storey. Many of the features of the interior and exterior of the house were reflections of prevailing architectural designs of West County England.

Records indicate that the builder may have been John King in 1826-27, and that the dwelling house was re-shingled in 1832.

The façade once featured an ornate, single-storey, covered and open front porch topped with a small balustrade, in the style of carriage porches. The gallery (or balcony) which surrounded the front of the house had Chinese style balustrade. This reflected a brief trend towards Chinese decoration in England during the Classical Revival period. The porch was removed during the time that the Earles occupied the residence, and at some point replaced with the current two-storey bay. The Chinese-style balustrade was restored at one point, but was replaced with plain rails and its stairs removed by June of 2005.

The current two-storey bay in the centre of Bleak House’s front façade has decorative use of clapboard on the bias and a pediment at the top. This bay section serves as the main entrance on the first floor and has windows at both floors.

During the late 1800s additions were made to the house, especially a variety at the rear.

The house's name is said to be a reference to the 1852 Charles Dickens novel of the same name.

Location and History

Community Fogo
Municipality Town of Fogo Island
Civic Address 036 North Side Road
Construction (circa) 1826 - 1827
Builder
John King
Style 19th Century Vernacular
Building Plan Rectangular Long Façade
Website Link http://www.townoffogoisland.ca/home/