George C. Harris House
Located near the centre of Grand Bank's historic downtown, the George C. Harris House has been home to some of the most influential families in the community's history.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
The property on which the building stands can trace its origins back to 1816, when it was originally owned by William Evans. Evans was a prominent merchant and politician, and at one point was one of the largest property owners in the town. After his death in 1898, his holdings were divided up and sold. Samuel Harris bought the plot of land where, in 1908, he built a house for his son, George. This new house probably replaced a house that had previously existed on the property.
George C. Harris became one of the famous businessmen in Grand Bank and all of Newfoundland. Born in 1879, he was the eldest son of Samuel Harris and before joining his father's firm, took commercial courses at Mount Alison University in Canada. In 1914 he became managing director of Samuel Harris Ltd. and began an expansion of his father's business on the Burin Peninsula.
While initially successful, the rapid expansion backfired after the end of the First World War. Over-expansion, declining fish prices and government regulations eventually forced Harris into bankruptcy in 1922. At the time, it was thought to be the largest bankruptcy in the Dominion of Newfoundland.
The loss of his father's business devastated Harris. He was left with nothing, and if not for the intervention of his brother-in-law, a local banker, he might have lost his house as well.
Harris never fully recovered from the loss of his business. He ran for public office in 1923 and won; however, he narrowly lost in an election the following year. After this, Harris continued to be involved in different business and served on the hospital board. His wife, Lottie, the sister of renowned poet E. J. Pratt, was known locally as a talented singer and painter. George and Lottie Harris lived in the house until their deaths in 1954, when Hazen Russell purchased the house.
Much like the Evans and Harris families, the Russells were involved in the fishery, but unlike their predecessors, they were involved in frozen fish processing. They operated a fleet of trawlers and the local year-round processing plant. The house was used primarily as a staff house and manager's residence.
In 1979 the house was sold, and it changed hands several times. In 1993 the Grand Bank Heritage Society acquired it, restored it and made it into a historical site.
Harris House, a three-storeyed Queen Anne style dwelling, sits on an elevated lot that overlooks Grand Bank Harbour. It has wooden clapboard siding, two chimneys and a steeply-pitched truncated roof with a belvedere at the top. The house was significantly damaged in a fire that destroyed much of downtown Grand Bank in 1930. At that time the elaborate balcony and entrance were removed, presumably because of fire damage. When the house was being repaired in 1993, these fixtures were restored.
The George C. Harris House became a Registered Heritage Structure in May 1993. It received the Southcott Award for restoration in 1996.