With so many "grand houses" built in the community of Grand Bank in the early part of this century, the Thorndyke may be the most elegant of them all.
© 1998 Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
Captain John Thornhill built the Thorndyke in 1917. While not as wealthy as many of the local merchants, he managed, through a combination of skill, hard work and good fortune, to build the largest house in Grand Bank at that time.
Thornhill was born in 1879 on nearby Brunette Island. While he never learned to read or write, he was an ambitious and driven man, who managed to become skipper of his own fishing schooner by the time he turned 24. The fishery on the Grand Banks was booming and Thornhill quickly became a rich man, owning a couple of vessels plus shares in several others.
Stories surrounding the construction of the Thorndyke abound. When Thornhill was building his house, he heard that a ship filled with lumber had been shipwrecked off the nearby island of St-Pierre. Thornhill salvaged the vessel, towed it back to Grand Bank and used its cargo to build his home.
Then there was the heating system used in the house. A new radiation heating system was smuggled back during one of his frequent trips to Nova Scotia. After customs officials examined his schooner, he sneaked the heating system out and moved it to his house, thus avoiding having to pay any import duties.
Thornhill named his house after a local schooner he had captained several years earlier. While it was initially a private residence for Thornhill and his family, he eventually began to run it as a hotel. It became a popular spot for visitors and schooner captains. Curiously, there was no master bedroom for Thornhill and his wife. It was common for them to move to another room depending on where a guest wanted to sleep.
Thornhill passed away in 1947, but the family continued to run the hotel until 1964. Since then the house has been owned by a number of people. In 1993 Neil and Lynn Edwards bought the building and now operate it as a bed and breakfast.
Looking virtually the same as it did when it was built, the Thorndyke is situated on Water Street, near the ocean. The house exhibits many of the features of the Queen Anne Revival style of architecture that was extremely popular in Grand Bank at the time of construction. It is a large house, with three full storeys and a basement. On the south side, two bay windows extend from the ground to the roof. The eaves are heavily bracketed. At the tip of the four-sided roof is a flat area surrounded by a belvedere. Extending along the full length of the front of the house is a sun-porch with large panes of clear glass.
The Thorndyke was recognised as a Registered Heritage Structure in 1988. The building also won a Southcott Award for excellence in heritage restoration.