Change of scenery
Smith family finds ideal summer home on Change Islands
Saltbox house is the perfect getaway for this family from New Mexico.
CHANGE ISLANDS, NL – At the end of the gravel road on Granfer’s Cove is a saltbox house.
Recently restored, the bronze-orange siding blends with the idyllic landscape complementing the blues of the water, browns of the rocks, and greens of the grass. It is a harmonious composition – one that attracts many visitors and some summer residents who keep coming back to call it home.
The price to enjoy the peace and tranquillity is worth paying.
The owners, Gregory and Karen Smith, with their son Caleb, have travelled over the past three summers to Change Islands from New Mexico in the United States.
“We drove 10,000 miles last year. It takes five to seven days of driving, about 600 miles each day, and about 11 to 12 hours a day of driving,” Greg says.
Although they could fly to cut down on travel time, they drive because their two dogs travel with them, and “dogs are not allowed to fly out of New Mexico from May to October because of the heat in the cargo hold of the airplane.”
With the dogs in the vehicle, “with stops, we normally pull 15-hour days, but the journey is part of the trip,” Greg adds.
The purchase of the home and their love for Change Islands came about by chance. Karen and Greg frequently talked about visiting Newfoundland.
Greg explains, “Every (Newfoundlander) I’ve met is the friendliest person – that is the primary reason for visiting Newfoundland.”
As they started their travels in Newfoundland beginning from St. Anthony, a friend suggested they meet up with
another resident of Change Islands, Peter Stacey.
“Two hours after the call, Peter called to check in and give some travelling tips along the way. And every two days, Peter would call and ask if we were coming to visit them on Change Islands,” Greg says.
Wary of the extended hospitality and Stacey’s persistence, the Smiths decided to spend one night on Change Islands to accommodate the request.
They got on so well that “we
stayed for five days,” Greg said.
The visit was such a positive experience, Greg told Stacey, “if a house at the end of a gravel road, with no neighbours on either side with a water view becomes available, I’ll buy it.”
Two years later, a house fitting that description – the Knee’s house with view of Granfer’s Cover – was up for sale.
At the time the offer was made, Mr. Knee was sick, Greg recalls.
“Three months after the offer was made, Mrs. Knee said she did not want to sell it. But two months later, in the middle of the night, their lawyer called, and said they wanted to sell it now, but it had to be done that night.
“At 8 p.m. the contract was signed, and at 12 a.m., Mr. Knee died.”
Karen described the first night in the house as “rough.”
“The fumes from the heating stove were so bad, I blocked the door to the bedroom because I was afraid of getting asphyxiated. I told Greg I am not sure what we did (by purchasing the house),” Karen said.
She also recalls the presence of a troubled spirit on the first night.
“I was in the back bedroom, and all of sudden my hair went up on my arm, like there is something in the doorway, it felt like not a good a spirit,” Karen said
“Is that you, Mr. Knee?” Karen asked, then added, “we are good people, we have kids and grandkids and we will take care of the house.
“And then the presence of the spirit went away.”
The Smiths enjoy the open space that Change Islands provides, but they come back because of the generosity of the people.
“When George, our very large German shepherd died, I called a friend on the island who happened to be out of town to help me. But within 15 to 20 minutes, about 10 men came and gave me a hand to help bury George,” said Karen.
“That’s the kind of people that are here.”
Caleb, Karen and Greg Smith have spent the last two summers at their home on Change Islands. The family enjoys outdoor activities, and takes the opportunity to go hiking and kayaking around the island.
Caleb, Karen and Greg at the location where George, their German shepherd, died last year. A group of men helped Karen bury the dog at this location, and some geology students on a field trip last year named it George’s Point.
A wooden plank with the words, “4 of Aug 1914 War” was found when the house was renovated. The Smith home is said to be 104 years old.