Cable building commemorated
Plague unveiled to recognize national historic significance of Bay Roberts structure
The Cable Building Building in Bay Roberts has been recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as an “important keystoneof transatlantic communications.”
On Aug. 2, a plaque was unveiled at the site commemorating the national historical significance of the building, which is now home to the Bay Roberts Town Hall, the Road to Yesterday Museum and the Christopher Pratt Art Gallery.
The plaque was unveiled by London West MP Ed Holder, on behalf of Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.
“I am pleased to recognize the national historical significance of the Cable Building in Bay Roberts, as an important keystone of transatlantic communications and for its direct affirmation of the impact of the
telegraph industry in the 20th century,” said Mr. Holder. “ The Cable Building holds an important role in the development of the Western Union Telegraph Company network, a telecommunications giant, and telegraph technologies in Newfoundland.”
Built in 1913, the Cable Building introduced to Newfoundland a new type of telegraph station that was more functional and highly specialized, Holder explained. The Cable Building’s neoclassical design, open and spacious interior, and state-oftheequipment for the time made it an important keystone of transatlantic communications.
With its connection to the Western Union Telegraph Company, which occupied the building from its conception to the 1960s, the Cable Building is symbolic of change in the Town of Bay Roberts.
This site also played an important role during the Second World War. Defended by three nations — Canada, United States and Newfoundland — it carried communications between Britain and her North American Allies, and housed a private line established between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill.
“ The role of the Cable Building … shapes an inspiring story, deserving of being shared and remembered by all Canadians.” said Prentice.
According to a news release issued by the board, the building’s construction “represents the corporate entity that dominated the transatlantic telegraph industry from 1912 to the 1960s. Its design is a strong corporate symbol of the telecommunications giant and a direct affirmation of the impact of the telegraph industry in the 20th century.
“It was a flagship of telegraph technologies, illustrating Western Union’s important role as an innovative industry leader.”
Until the mid-19th century, ships took at least 10 days to transport information across the Atlantic. The laying of transatlantic cables in the 19th and 20th centuries revolutionized worldwide communications.
Several companies competed for supremacy in the early years of cable communications, but soon after Newfoundland (located at the point of North America closest to Europe) opened its territory to commercial competition, Western Union dominated the industry.
In 1910, Western Union laid a cable from Bay Roberts to England, and in 1913 the company had the Cable Building erected to house the Newfoundland installations. During both World Wars, the Bay Roberts station played a critical role in the secure relaying of information so vital for the war effort.
This station was at the forefront of technical innovations, until it was made redundant by the supremacy of the telephone. It closed in 1960.
The building was designed by the New York firm of McKenzie, Voorhee and Gmelin, and is an emblem of contemporary corporate architecture.
Its specialized interior layout included areas for equipment, administration, technical operations and other uses. Certain interior spaces have remained intact, although the equipment is no longer in place.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment regarding the national historic significance of places, people and events that have marked Canada’s history.
Parks Canada manages a nationwide network of national historic sites that make up the rich tapestry of Canada’s cultural heritage and which offers visitors the opportunity for real and inspiring discoveries.
A plaque was unveiled Aug. 2commemorating the national historical significance of the Bay Roberts Cable Building.