The Hopedale Moravian Mission Complex is the largest, continuously used Moravian complex on the north coast of Labrador. Constructed between 1817 and 1897, the buildings show design influences from the vernacular styles of Central and Eastern Europe and are fine examples of Moravian architecture in Labrador. The site, in an exposed area close to the shoreline, has been occupied by a Moravian mission since 1782. The designation includes the footprint of seven buildings – the provision house, the mission house, the church, the dead house, the storehouse, the gunpowder hut and the boathouse – and the surrounding landscape.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
Hopedale Moravian Mission Complex was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011 due to its aesthetic, historic and cultural value.
The Hopedale Moravian Mission Complex is the largest continually-used Moravian complex on the north coast of Labrador. As such, it is a vital part of the story of settlement in Hopedale and northern Labrador. Moravians began travelling to Labrador in the mid 1700s, with the first permanent mission established in Nain in 1771. In 1775, Moravians and Inuit guides travelled south from the permanent mission at Nain to scout possible mission sites. They chose a site near the Inuit winter camp at Arvertok and in 1777 Movavian officials went there to make a purchase agreement with the Inuit. The settlement was named Hoffenthal, meaning “valley of hope” (anglicized as Hopedale).
Missionary Jens Haven left Nain in 1782 on The Amity, which was loaded with construction materials. He arrived in Hopedale on September 2nd and by October 21st the mission house was complete enough for some missionaries to move in. By the first decade of the 1800s, the “Great Awakening” saw many Inuit become Christians and abandon Arvertok to be closer to the mission. This movement to Hopedale saw the Inuit way of life shift from traditional seasonal migration to fixed permanent settlement. They gradually adopted European technologies, cultural expressions and religion. While the Moravians did use the Inuktitut language for education and music, and made efforts to document the cultural histories of Inuit communities, the introduction of Christianity and permanent settlement has had lasting impacts on traditional Inuit culture and ways of life in Nunatsiavut.
The mission complex is a rare surviving example of Moravian institutional architecture in this region. It consists of seven buildings dating from 1817 to 1897. The earliest surviving building is the provision house (1817), formerly containing a bakery, brewery, wood shed and storage area. The mission house, (1848-1853, with the annex added in 1897), replaces the original building constructed in 1782. The church (1865) also replaces an earlier structure built in 1806, and is still used by local people for religious services. It has an elaborate roof structure in which the ceiling is actually hung from the rafters, in order to allow for an uninterrupted space in the sanctuary on the first level. The dead house (pre-1900) was used to store bodies prior to funeral services.The storehouse (pre-1900) was used for trade, where Inuit exchanged items such as fur, seal blubber and crafts for credit towards European foods, fabrics and dry goods. Located a short distance from the rest of the complex, the communal boathouse (pre-1900) was used to store boats and fishing equipment. The gunpowder hut (pre-1900) was also located off site, but was moved inside the complex during restorations by Parks Canada.
The construction of the mission complex buildings reflects Central European building styles and techniques include casement windows, hooded dormers, the hipped gable of the church roof and the use of large timbers with brick infill (nogging). A number of these buildings are actually “prefab” structures, in that they were manufactured elsewhere and shipped to Hopedale to be erected. The Moravian Mission Complex is a unique Labradorian example of European architecture adapted to a Northern setting.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Hopedale – Hopedale Moravian Mission Complex – FPT 4625”
Character Defining Elements
All those elements which represent the aesthetic, historic and cultural value of Hopedale Moravian Mission Complex, including:
– number of storeys of the individual buildings;
– wooden roof shingles;
– diamond patterning of shingles on church;
– exposed exterior beams under some eaves;
– truncated hip roof on the church;
– cupola on church;
– steep gable roof on the provision house, the mission house, the dead house, the storehouse and the boathouse;
– pyramidal roof on the gunpowder hut;
– chimney style and placement;
– narrow wooden clapboard;
– wooden corner boards;
– white paint on exterior walls;
– wooden window size, style, trim and placement;
– arched wooden windows on the church;
– irregular square wooden windows on the mission house;
– extensive use of wooden casement windows;
– dormer location, size and style;
– eyebrow dormers on the mission house;
– size, style, trim and placement of wooden dormer windows;
– size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
– transom windows above doors in the church;
– nogging walls;
– prefabricated structural elements;
– stone foundation;
– remnants of fences, paths, gardens and other earlier buildings on site;
– proximity to water and waterfront access;
– spatial relationships between buildings in complex;
– prominent location of complex in the community, and;
– dimension, location and orientation of buildings.
Location and History
Town of Hopedale
1817 - 1897