Eastport Peninsula: "The Neck"

"The Neck", a parcel of land used for inter-community and peninsular activities, located between Eastport, Happy Adventure and Sandy Cove, represents a most remarkable feature of the Peninsula's settlement geography and cultural landscape. It is indeed a settlement characteristic which may be unique not only to Newfoundland but to Canada and perhaps to North America. Although "The Neck" is, in legal terms at least, a piece of church land, its functional use makes it effectively a public reserve and an inter-community commons.

Holy Cross Anglican Church, "The Neck", 1985.
Holy Cross Anglican Church was built in 1890.

Photo by Gordon Handcock, ©1985. Reproduced by permission of Gordon Handcock.
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Holy Cross Anglican Church

In the early 1870s, during the fledgling stages of Eastport, Happy Adventure and Sandy Cove, a decision was taken by the Anglican Church to build a school-chapel to serve all three communities. The building was constructed on a centrally located rise, or elevation, near the present site of Holy Cross Anglican Church (which was built in 1890 to replace the earlier chapel). The Church also acquired title to a 30 acre block of land. Over the years this central area, "The Neck", has provided the space needed for cemeteries, schools, playgrounds, and other public buildings. Today, for example, besides Holy Cross Church, "The Neck" contains a parish hall and rectory, an all-grade school complex which serves the whole Eastport Peninsula, two cemeteries (Anglican and United), a war memorial, a youth center, sports and recreational facilities, a fire hall, a fraternity lodge (SUF), a medical clinic and other structures.

Anglican cemetery Anglican cemetery, "The Neck", 2000.
Anglican cemetery with school complex in the background.

Photo by Gordon Handcock, ©2000. Reproduced by permission of Gordon Handcock.
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Until the 1960s it contained an armoury built by and for the Church Lads Brigade. The CLB armoury was a simple but magnificent open-space structure that not only served its primary purpose, the training of boys, but for decades provided the main inter-community venue for social and cultural activities (socials, banquets, concerts, plays, movies, entertainment, agricultural fairs, celebrations, sports activities and other events). Nearby outdoor spaces were used for sports such as football and softball, Sunday school picnics, summer camp grounds for the CLB and especially for casual youth gatherings and a popular resort of courting couples.

The assignment of a central area for church and public use by three adjacent communities in the 19th century was unquestionably a unique event in the history of Newfoundland settlement. It can be seen as a planning strategy, or at least forward thinking on the part of someone (possibly the Reverend H.M. Skinner), but also a remarkable example, for its time, of community cooperation.

Aerial view of "The Neck", 1968.
"The Neck" is located between Sandy Cove, Happy Adventure and Eastport.

Reproduced by permission of the Surveys and Mapping Division of the Department of Government Services and Lands, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ©1968. Image modified by Tanya Saunders.
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The Neck

Since its inception, "The Neck", has functioned in much the same way as the ancient village green or community commons. The "green village" has Medieval origins in Europe and England. The "green", usually situated in the centre of settlement, was an area of public or common land (usually covered by grass) where a church and school or, as in New England, the public hall could be found and also open space for gatherings and sporting events. Normally, the "green" was used by one community. "The Neck" has that very rare distinction as serving as the communal area for three communities since the 1870s. Presently it functions as a central area for all seven places on the Eastport Peninsula. This special area, "The Neck", thus lends a very distinctive quality to the cultural character of the Peninsula and is also one of the more enduring legacies of its human history.

© 2002, Gordon Handcock


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