The tale of a house


Be­fore Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way was built, I drove hundreds if not thou­sands of times by New­found­land House, the res­i­dence of former Premier Joseph Small­wood and his wife, Clara, on their daugh­ter’s farm on Roaches Line. I of­ten wished I could go in­side the build­ing, if for no other rea­son than to see Joey’s per­sonal li­brary which, I had heard, was enor­mous.

One of my clos­est con­tacts with Joey was in 1981, when I in­ter­viewed him about a boy­hood hero­ine. How­ever, that was in his of­fice in St. John’s, not his home on Roaches Line.

Now, thanks to Robert Mellin’s book, “New­found­land Modern: Ar­chi­tec­ture in the Small­wood Years 19491972,” I can vi­car­i­ously visit New­found­land House.

Us­ing over 220 draw­ings and pho­tographs, Mellin presents the de­vel­op­ment of ar­chi­tec­ture in the years im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing New­found­land’s union with Canada in 1949.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lisher’s ad­ver­tis­ing, “The prov­ince’s whole­hearted em­brace of modern ar­chi­tec­ture in this era af­fected plan­ning as well as the de­sign of cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties, com­mer­cial and pub­lic build­ings, hous­ing,

Re­cent news has brought us some short clips of in­for­ma­tion that may not seem re­lated to one an­other at first glance.

The new Kathy Dun­derdale govern­ment wants to re­or­ga­nize the fish­ery and run it “like a busi­ness.” To profit who?

The new Kathy Dun­derdale govern­ment is con­tin­u­ing full steam ahead with plans to de­velop the Lower Churchill at Muskrat Falls. Ac­cord­ing to them, the out­cry against the project is hap­pen­ing only be­cause govern­ment hasn’t ex­plained it well enough. Yet. They will try harder.

The new Kathy Dun­derdale govern­ment is putting the fin­ish­ing touches on their waste man­age­ment plan that will see the clos­ing of nu­mer­ous lo­cal dumps. In­stead garbage will be trucked vast dis­tances to a few megad­umps. This is sup­posed to be more ef­fi­cient.

Last week an­other story broke about faulty lab test­ing in one of the prov­ince’s health districts. This time not East­ern, but Cen­tral Health. A large re­gional board cre­ated by amal­ga­mat­ing smaller lo­cal boards. Here too ef­fi­ciency was the goal.

The “Oc­cupy” move­ment that be­gan in Europe and North Africa, then moved to Wall Street, where North Amer­i­cans first paid it some at­ten­tion, has be­gun to an­noy pow­er­ful peo­ple who fear change. With vary­ing lev­els of force, au­thor­i­ties are shut­ting down en­camp­ments in pub­lic places in cities around the world.

What do these short clips of seem­ingly un­re­lated in­for­ma­tion have to do with one an­other?

Our fish­ery, Muskrat Falls, mega re­cre­ation, ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties, and places of wor­ship.” Joey “re­lied on modern ar­chi­tec­ture to demon­strate the progress made by his ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Per­haps this is nowhere more ev­i­dent that in the de­sign and con­struc­tion of New­found­land House in 1959. Mellin refers to it as per­haps the “most sig­nif­i­cant res­i­den­tial project” com­pleted by ar­chi­tects Ge­orge W. Cum­mings and An­gus J. Camp­bell.

Small­wood was, ac­cord­ing to Mellin, “very proud of his house …

“The Small­wood Res­i­dence is very dif­fer­ent from other houses con­structed in New­found­land in the late 1950s. There is a bold thrust to this house, which, be­cause of its lo­ca­tion, form and ori­en­ta­tion, al­lowed Small­wood to keep watch over his ru­ral do­main.” garbage dumps and faulty health test­ing are all ex­am­ples of how not to do things. The think­ing be­hind them is de­scribed with stun­ningly ac­cu­rate fore­sight in E.F. Schu­macher’s 1973 best seller “Small is Beau­ti­ful. A Study of Eco­nomics As If Peo­ple Mat­tered.”

The “Oc­cupy” move­ment was pre­dicted by Schu­macher. Ac­cord­ing to him, it — or some­thing like it — would be the di­rect con­se­quence of gov­ern­ments fail­ing to take into ac­count that peo­ple do mat­ter.

“The fun­da­men­tal ques­tion­ing of con­ven­tional val­ues by young peo­ple all over the world is a symp­tom of the wide­spread un­ease with which our in­dus­trial civ­i­liza­tion is in­creas­ingly re­garded.”

This was in 1973, fol­low­ing closely on the tur­bu­lent 60s. Ac­cord­ing to Schu­macher, if there was not a fun­da­men­tal change in the way gov­ern­ments man­aged the im­pact of de­vel­op­ment on the pop­u­la­tion, the re­sults would be apoc­a­lyp­tic “the down­fall of civ­i­liza­tion will not be a mat­ter of sci­ence fic­tion. It will be the ex­pe­ri­ence

New­found­land House has “free­stand­ing, tri­an­gu­lar cor­ner piers with open breeze­ways be­hind them, eaves with raked pro­files, and sloped roofs with deep eaves.”

Ear­lier, I said I would have liked to see Joey’s per­sonal li­brary. Mellin con­tin­ues, “spe­cial book­shelves, some with slid­ing doors for stor­age be­low and oth­ers an­gled for dis­play, were cus­tom-made by the car­pen­ters who built the house. Small­wood had so many books he had to stack them two-deep on the shelves. While trav­el­ing in Eng­land he would visit an­tique book­stores, and he would ship books by the crate-load back to New­found­land. Joey Small­wood was the col­lec­tor, and his wife was the cu­ra­tor. All the books were cat­a­logued and tagged.”

Mellin in­cludes 17 pho­tos and draw­ings of New­found­land House and en­vi­rons. In one photo, which forms the fron­tispiece to the book, Joey is at his house, his right hand rest­ing on a few of his favourite things — books.

Mellin leaves no stone un­turned in his dis­cus­sion of New­found­land House. The pho­tos and draw­ings are evoca­tive of Joey’s pen­chant for pas- of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.”

Schu­macher’s view is that growth and de­vel­op­ment should be re­al­ized at a hu­man scale. If your goal is a project of a grand scale, the best way to achieve it is by as­sem­bling nu­mer­ous smaller pieces that are un­der­stand­able to in­di­vid­u­als. A builder can par­tic­i­pate in the con­struc­tion of a huge build­ing by con­cen­trat­ing on the im­por­tance of lay­ing each brick cor­rectly, one at a time.

As Schu­macher puts it, “There is wis­dom in small­ness if only on ac­count of the small­ness and patch­i­ness of hu­man knowl­edge, which re­lies on ex­per­i­ment far more than un­der­stand­ing.” toral land­scapes. There are el­e­va­tion draw­ings and floor plans. There are pho­tos of the main stair­case to the base­ment, tiles above the liv­ing room fire­place, cor­ner win­dow de­tails, even car­pen­ters for the Small­wood Res­i­dence.

The author notes the struc­ture “even­tu­ally be­came con­tro­ver­sial” for Joey. “Around the time Small­wood left of­fice in 1972, dif­fi­cul­ties arose over con­tri­bu­tions he had re­ceived from con­trac­tors and other com­pa­nies for the con­struc­tion of some parts of his house.

“One ex­am­ple is the ad­di­tion of an en­closed swim­ming pool, which was paid for by Ch­es­ley Cros­bie’s com­pany NECCO (New­found­land En­gi­neer­ing and Con­struc­tion Com­pany). Un­til the late 1960s, there were no se­crets about sim­i­lar con­tri­bu­tions that Cros­bie and oth­ers made to Small­wood’s premises, since this was just the way things were done at the time.

“To defuse a pos­si­ble scan­dal, Small­wood sold the Small­wood Res­i­dence to the provin­cial govern­ment for one dol­lar, but there was a covenant that Small­wood could still live there de­spite the change of own-

He added: “The great­est dan­ger in­vari­ably arises from the ruth­less ap­pli­ca­tion, on a vast scale, of par­tial knowl­edge such as we are cur­rently wit­ness­ing in the ap­pli­ca­tion of nu­clear en­ergy, of the new chem­istry in agri­cul­ture, of trans­porta­tion tech­nol­ogy, and count­less other things.”

There is only one rea­son Schu­macher didn’t in­clude Muskrat Falls in this list. He died in 1977.

In ad­di­tion to the scale of phys­i­cal projects, there is the tyranny of in­sti­tu­tions that are so huge that or­di­nary peo­ple can’t un­der­stand the rea­son­ing be­hind the de­ci­sions they are mak­ing. Some of these in­sti­tu­tions in­clude fish pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies, gi­ant en­ergy er­ship. Dur­ing Frank Moore’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, Small­wood wanted the govern­ment to find an al­ter­nate use for the house as a mu­seum or sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity, but to no avail. Later still, dur­ing Clyde Wells’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, the govern­ment gave the house back to Small­wood, but Small­wood had no money for its nec­es­sary re­pairs …

“In the end, this jet of a house out­lasted the bound­less en­er­gies of its owner.”

In­ci­den­tally, if you are in­ter­ested in learn­ing all about the de­sign and con­struc­tion of Car­bon­ear Re­gional Hos­pi­tal, Mellin deals with this in one of his later chap­ters. The ar­chi­tect “reached be­yond con­sid­er­a­tion of func­tion and cost to ad­dress the qual­i­ta­tive and ther­a­peu­tic aspects of hos­pi­tal de­sign.”

“New­found­land Modern: Ar­chi­tec­ture in the Small­wood Years 19491972” is pub­lished by Mcgill-queen’s Univer­sity Press in the Beaver­brook Cana­dian Foun­da­tion Stud­ies in Art His­tory Se­ries. cor­po­ra­tions, re­gional health boards, and waste man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions. To this could be added po­lit­i­cal par­ties, pri­vate con­trac­tors and the stock mar­ket.

Schu­macher felt that not only should the el­e­ments mak­ing up a large project or or­ga­ni­za­tion be as small as is pos­si­ble, but the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion within it should be as short as prac­ti­cal. This would lead to the clear­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion within, and a more ready ac­cep­tance by cit­i­zens at large.

Schu­macher was an op­ti­mist. He de­vel­oped his phi­los­o­phy of eco­nomics to show how things could be im­proved. He would nat­u­rally as­sume that an or­ga­ni­za­tion, let’s take for ex­am­ple a provin­cial govern­ment, truly wants the pub­lic to un­der­stand what it is do­ing and why. But what if that is not the case? What if, on the con­trary, the provin­cial govern­ment, and I re­peat, I am just us­ing it as an ex­am­ple, doesn’t re­ally want the peo­ple to know what it is up to? Why bother ex­plain­ing? The peo­ple wouldn’t get it any­way.

How would Schu­macher re­act to that? The name Schu­macher is Ger­man for shoe­maker. He might break into verse.

“There was an old wo­man who lived in a shoe,

She had so many chil­dren, she didn’t know what to do;

She gave them some broth, with­out any bread,

Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”

DE­PEND­ABLE DE­LANEY — Keith De­laney of the Con­cep­tion Bay North Cee­bee Stars waits for a pass near his team’s bench dur­ing a game Nov. 19 against the Mount Pearl Blades at the S. W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace. De­laney picked up one as­sist in a 4- 3 loss to the Blades, but has been on a tor­rid pace so far this sea­son. Head­ing into ac­tion t h i s p a s t we e kend, De­laney had wracked up four goals and nine as­sists ( 13 points) through the first six games of the sea­son, putting him fourth in l e a g u e s c o r i n g. H i s younger brother, Ryan De­laney, was sec­ond in team scor­ing with 10 points.

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