Hudson's Bay Company Net Loft
The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) built the Net Loft in Rigolet, Labrador in 1876 and used it as a net storage and work area.
The history of European trapping and trading in Labrador dates back to the mid-18th century. However, the HBC post at Rigolet was not opened until 1836 when Simon MacGillivray established it in competition to the Québec trader, D.R. Stewart. Two years later, the HBC established itself in the Hamilton Inlet region. As the fur trade proved insufficient to ensure a profitable enterprise, the HBC decided to supplement revenues with a salmon industry.
The Net Loft was first used in connection with the salmon fishery. The 15.3 by 7.5 m (51 by 25 ft.) two-storeyed building has 34 net storage bunks measuring 0.5 by 0.9 by 1.8 m (1.5 by 3 by 6 ft.) built into its eaves. The HBC owned all of the fishing gear in the property and leased it to families at a cost of one-third of the catch of the salmon. Until approximately 1920, the families who used the Net Loft identified their nets by painting their names on the top of the net storage bunks.
The staff of the HBC were predominantly from Scotland, Newfoundland and Québec, with some Norwegians hired periodically. They were responsible for maintaining and repairing the fishing equipment in the off season and for distributing the fishing gear to the families in time for the season. Occasionally they would temporarily hire planters and Inuit to aid in the repairing of the nets, anchor ropes and floats. They repaired the equipment in a second level corridor that ran the length of the building beneath the net storage bunks.
The lower level remained in use as a warehouse for the HBC until its departure from Rigolet at the end of June 1989. The Net Loft has since been restored and was opened as a museum and interpretation centre in the summer of 2002. In May 1997 the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador designated the Hudson's Bay Company Net Loft as a Registered Heritage Structure.
Updated October, 2004