PUFFINS AND WHALES
Cape Bonavista, jutting out into the North Atlantic, is a natural platform from which you have an opportunity to see everything from icebergs to a rich variety of marine life including several species of whales and sea birds.
Several species of whales, the minke and humpbacks in particular visit our shores in early summer to feed on the schools of hearing, mackerel and especially caplin that are present in inshore waters at this time of year. It is a rare privilege to watch the swimming and feeding display put on by these huge mammals.
The Cape (Cape Bonavista) like most of coastal Newfoundland provides a home and sanctuary for a great variety of seabirds. The offshore islands, high cliffs, and sea stacks provide ideal nesting places. The great black back gull commonly known as the saddleback and the herring gull are the prominent species but a variety of others such as the Atlantic Puffin can be seen.
Toward the end of June you might have an opportunity to witness the annual caplin spawn. During this time of year these small fish instinctively come ashore and "roll" on the sandy beaches to spawn and perpetuate the species.
The icebergs come in all shapes and sizes moved by the wind and sea. Most of them originate from the large portions of ice that break off from the glaciers on the west coast of Greenland, 1000's of km to the north.
During early spring and summer many of them float by driven by the Labrador current on their way to what has become known as "Iceberg Alley" on the Grand Banks, south of Newfoundland. There, where the cold Labrador Current meets with the warm water of the Gulf Stream flowing up from the Eastern Seaboard they eventually break apart and founder.
A key note to remember is that a iceberg is 7/8's larger below the surface than it looks above. (For an example, take an icecube, place it in a glass of water. Not much floats above, does it! So if a iceberg is standing 100ft above the waters surface, 900ft or more could be below.)
SCENIC, RUGGED COASTLINES
All around the coast of the Bonavista one is captivated by the scenic beauty of the rugged coastline. Seastacks, caves, beaches, steep cliffs and islands...all carved by wind and sea.
ALEXANDER (BRIDGE) HOUSE
The oldest house in Bonavista today is the 182-year-old dwelling built in 1811 by Alexander Straithie, a Scottish tradesman from Renfrew, Scotland. It is also the oldest surviving structure documented in Newfoundland. This is not to say that there may not be older structures in the province but that the Bridge House is the one to which the oldest date now known can be assigned.
The house is situated on Walkham's hill and was owned by William Alexander who came to Bonavista from Argylshire, Scotland. He started a mercantile business and founded the business of Alexander and Co. Mr. Alexander, who died on June 22, 1828 was laid to rest in the family plot in the old Anglican Cemetery in Bonavista.
As well as for private occupational use, the house was used as a boarding house for commercial travellers. The house was occupied until June of 1966 and is now owned by the Bonavista Historical Society. On an interesting note, the year 1811 (the year the house was built) and the name of William Alexander is carved into a piece of glass that still resides inside the house today.
The house is a fairly straightforward gable roof house with gable end chimneys and a central hall. It stands today in its original shape and design as very little alternation has been done on the old house. It is one of Newfoundland's most significant structures that still stands as it did 182 years ago.
The Legacy of Alexander Strathie: The Architecture of the Strathie Family of Bonavista, Newfoundland
Information courtesy of an article wrote by Shane O'Dea
THE LOYAL ORANGE LODGE
The Orange Lodge received its warrant in April 1872. The first meeting was held at the Thornlea Hotel on Forbes Street, Bonavista. It was not until 1907 that the present lodge was built. It is worthy to note that this hall was built with all free labour. The upstairs, where all meetings are held, has never been changed and remains the same after 90 years.
The lodge has been going strong for more than 125 years. At one time, there was a strong membership of 475 members. Other branches of the Orange Society are the Orange Young Britons (OYB) for young members of 14 years and over, the Royal Black Preceiptary (RBP), the highest branch of the Orange Society, and the Sisters of the Ladies Orange Benevolent Association (LOBA). All meetings are held at the Orange Hall (as it is commonly referred to by local residents).
It is interesting to point out that although the top floor of the lodge was used exclusively by all branches of the Orange Society, the bottom floor was at one time the centre of most community events. It boasted a kitchen, which was used for community teas and suppers, and a large enough meeting hall which hosted many public gatherings. Perhaps the main feature of the downstairs was the large stage which took up the entire side of the building where the kitchen is today. Here local performers held concerts which became the social events of the town. During the 1980's, the lodge received a grant to perform some major repairs on the hall and a decision was made to remove the stage (which by that time needed some major repairs and was quite unsafe to use) and enlarge the kitchen. Today, the downstairs is used mostly by the Orange Society for teas and suppers to raise money for the upkeep of the hall.
The Orange Lodge welcomes all tourists and members of the association to their lodge. Meetings are held every Wednesday night at 8:00pm and the LOBA hold their meetings every Thursday night. Because of other commitments of its members, the Lodge closes for the summer months and reopens during the fall.
Information courtesy of the Loyal Orange Lodge, Bonavista, Newfoundland
MEMORIAL UNITED CHURCH
The first Methodist church was constructed in 1814 under the ministry of Rev. William Ellis. It served its congregation for thirty-five years and was known as the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel while its followers were called ‘Wesleyans'. In 1851, it was felt that the church had to be enlarged and was done so a few years later. However, on Sunday, January 8, 1870, a severe storm destroyed the church. Undaunted, the people rebuilt the church and it was completed in 1871 under the ministry of Rev. John S. Phimmey.
On March 4, 1918, this building was taken down in favour of a new facility. The fourth and present church was built in 1921 under the leadership of Rev. Charles Lench. It is 65 feet wide and 124 feet long with a seating capacity of 1375. It is of the "Classical Revival Style," widely popular throughout mainland British North America from circa 1820 to 1860. It is the largest wooden church in Eastern Canada and is a magnificent structure that stands as a memorial to those who paid the supreme sacrifice during the first and second World Wars.
Information courtesy of the Memorial United Church of Bonavista, Newfoundland
THE WHIPPING POST
In 1754 Bonavista had an institution known as the "Whipping Post" where lawless people were punished as an example to others at that time. There was no clergyman, no day scholls and the world had not heard of the renowned Robert Raikes or the Sunday School Institution as we know it today. The first person to be whipped was Joseph Batt, who was sentenced to receive fifteen lashes for the stealing of shoes and buckles valued at seven shillings and sixpence.
Having brought him to the whipping post he was seized by the mob who said he should not be whipped but the Magistrate persevered and the law was carried out with the utmost vigour. The mob then demanded that the plantiff should be whipped. This motion was not carried out but the men of Bonavista had their revenge, they thought, when a few days later, they assailed the offensive whipping post, tearing out the obnoxious irons to which they were accustomed to tie the hands of the criminal during the infliction of court punishment.
Copied from the files of the Newfoundland Historical Society Extract from a report sent in by Newman Abbott, Church Street, Bonavista in 1964.
THE BONAVISTA COUTHOUSE
The current courthouse building, the third one to occupy the site overlooking what is now the inner harbour, was built in 1900 under the supervision of the Strathies, the previous structure having been destroyed in a disatrous fire three years earlier.
Bonavista's first Justice of the Peace had been appointed by the governor Captain Henry Osbourne in 1729 so it may be assumed that the town was served from that date by a system of justice that has been administered from this site from that date and even unto the present day.
On the grounds of the courthouse in full view of the inner harbour, may be seen a plaque commemorating the defence of Bonavista on August 18, 1704 by Captain Michael Gill, a New England trader who was in port at the time, against a combined force of French and Canadian Indians.
Also to be viewed on the grounds is an old carriage gun from World War 1 plus replicas of a whipping post and a set of stocks - both of which items were frequently used in the earlier days in the punishment of the law.
ST. JOSEPH'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
(1815 - 1842) This small church with Gothic Revival elements was erected on what became known as Chapel Hill. Permission to build was granted by Governor Pickmore in 1815, and the building was completed in 1842 with its first priest being Rev. Father Matthew Scanlan.
Flakes are wooden platforms covered with spruce or fir poles (longers) - and stages - primitive wooden buildings (frequently built over the water along the shoreline) - were essential to the fishermen for landing, splitting, salting and drying their catches of codfish.
Following various periods under salt - depending if the product were to be heavy or light salted or pickled - it was again washed and spread on top of boughs on the flakes to be dried by the sun. This process took a number of days depending on the temperature, the amount of sun and absence of rain. The time consuming chore was most often the responsibility of the women in the fishing family, and the quality of the finished product depended to a large measure on the dedication and skill of these essential people.