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Bartlett House
(Brigus)

One of the best known historical buildings in Brigus is Bartlett House, the home of several famous sealing captains.

© 1998 Heritage Foundation
of Newfoundland and Labrador

(31Kb)
The house was constructed sometime around 1830. A document found in the house states that Charles Cozens sold a house to Abram Bartlett. The current owner, Tom Burke, believes the document is referring to the Bartlett House.

The house was passed from generation to generation of the Bartlett family, one of the most famous mariner families in Newfoundland. The house's first owner, Abram Bartlett, was one of Newfoundland's most famous sealers.

After Abram's death in 1889, his son John came into possession of the house. While he started out in the seal and cod fishery, John became the first of several Bartletts to become involved in Arctic exploration, commanding a number of Robert Peary's early expeditions to the Arctic. He also served as a Member of the House of Assembly.

John passed away in 1925, leaving the house to his son, Moses, who followed the same path as his father and grandfather by being involved in the seal hunt, the cod fishery and several Arctic expeditions. They included an attempt to reach the North Pole in 1905-06 with Peary and as commander of Dr. Frederick Cook's vessel Bradley. Moses Bartlett passed away in 1937. From 1937 until the early 1950s, his daughter Alice lived at the Bartlett House, and after her death, Fred Bartlett and his wife Rowena, retired to the house.

In 1980, a fire damaged the house and the repairs were more expensive than Rowena Bartlett could afford. St. John's lawyer Tom Burke agreed to help, and when Rowena Bartlett passed away in 1985, the Burke family inherited the property. They spent several years restoring the house.

The architecture is unique to the Brigus area. It has two-and-a-half storeys with a mid-pitch gable roof and a dormer window, which was restored in 2000. In the front of the building is a porch with a rounded roof. The house has two chimneys with a larger, open hearth on its left side and a smaller one on the right. There are fireplaces on the first and second floors.

However, Bartlett House is different in that it defies a standard rule of nineteenth-century architecture by not having the front part of the house symmetrical. In most homes of that era, the windows and doors were all symmetrical. However, with this house, the middle window on the second floor is off-centre to the right. The front porch is situated directly under this window thus making it off-centre as well. Additionally, on the right side of the second floor, there is no window.

There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that the house at one time was larger and symmetrically balanced; however, there is no real evidence of this. The other is that this style of design was unique to the Brigus area. There are abandoned houses in the area that reflect this design. It is possible that one architect created all of these homes.

Over the years, many alterations have been made to the structure, including the removal of a back section. The building currently remains with the Burke family.

Bartlett House became a Registered Heritage Structure in April 1990.

Updated September, 2004


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