From coal chutes to plaster medallions, old Newfoundland houses have some unique elements.
Newfoundland is home to many 19th and 20th century homes, packed with charm and grace of years gone by. The St. John`s fire of 1892 leveled huge swathes of the city, leaving a few pockets standing, but of those remaining today, many have been extensively updated and remodeled while maintaining their heritage & character. But why bother, especially considering the fact that older homes are often drafty, lacking in modern amenities, and prone to fits of upkeep? Because the architectural features of these homes reveal long-gone ways of living that inform our modern-day culture. Let`s take a look at some of the unique design quirks and architectural nuances you`ll see today in Newfoundland.
Up until around 1950, most families heated their homes by burning coal. Delivery drivers brought coal to each home on the street, sort of like fossil-fuel-toting milkmen. They'd open an iron door that led to the basement and toss in the coal, which would tumble into a collection bin. People burned the coal for heat, but this heat also created a unique style of family bonding. "The coal chute powered the fireplace, which was the sort of social center of the working class home," says Morgan Rigaud, an art appraiser and art historian from Ohio.
Credit: Structure Tech
Sure, many new homes contain fireplaces, but they're much more of an affectation than they were for the working class families who gathered each winter night around the coal-powered heat of the living room fireplace. Like the parlors of richer families, fireplaces became a gathering spot—and as such, people tended to decorate their fireplaces as lavishly as possible.
"[The fireplace] was your central heat, so you had to gather there with your family to stay warm," Rigaud says. "So the fireplace was where you came together. And that's often where you would find those beautiful glazed art tiles."
Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Even the ceilings of 19th century grand homes were covered in decoration. Among the intricate plaster work that led guests to marvel at corners, the plaster medallion may be the most arresting. Plaster medallions were decorative structures in the ceiling through which chandeliers or other ornate lighting fixtures were attached. "It's the buffer between the ceiling and a lighting fixture, and so that plaster embellishment there just added to the kind of fanciful elegance that more well-heeled folks could afford," Rigaud says.
SECOND EMPIRE CONSTRUCTION
After the Great Fire of 1892 in St. John's, the most popular style for residential construction during this time was the Second Empire style. This style of building was also known locally as the "Southcott Style" after the firm of J. & J.T. Southcott who introduced it to the city. The distinguishing features of this style of house are a mansard roof and hooded dormer windows on the top floor. The houses are typically three stories and are attached on one or both sides. Examples of Southcott and Southcott-inspired row houses can be seen throughout the downtown, with notable examples on Gower Street and Cochrane Street.
Do you own of a home with any of these features? Thinking about updating or remodeling? Before you begin, find a reputable contractor that knows how to handle these unique features, and of course, talk to Wedgwood Insurance to ensure you're properly covered. Experts estimate that 1 out of 4 remodeling projects adds at least 25% to the value of a home, yet often most homeowners forget to increase their coverage to protect their investment. Most homeowners insurance policies require 100% of the home’s replacement cost, so it’s important to raise your home’s policy limit before your project begins.
Sections of this post are copied from Urbo, with thanks.