Vernacular architecture in the Codroy Valley: local and external influences on the development of a building tradition

MacKinnon, Richard Paul (1990) Vernacular architecture in the Codroy Valley: local and external influences on the development of a building tradition. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the vernacular architecture tradition of one region of Canada, the Codroy Valley, Newfoundland, and is based on a wide range of both field and archival materials. The important factors in the development of this building tradition were: cultural antecedents, economics, international fashion, mass housing and local traditions. -- The first important influence on Codroy Valley building was the cultural homeland of Cape Breton Island, the area from where Codroy Valley settlers migrated in the mid-nineteenth century. The first generation architecture in this antecedent district was much different from that found in the Old World. Most buildings of this period in Cape Breton Island were made of wood and employed log and frame construction along with new world floorplans. While the origins of some building patterns such as the use of squared and chinked horizontal log construction are questionable, they obviously developed in the new world. Nevertheless, one persistent element of old world architectural tradition remained--the use of the kitchen as the largest and most important room of the dwelling house. -- When settlers migrated from Cape Breton Island and established their homes in the Codroy Valley, diffusion of architectural traits occurred. Log construction was carried over to be used in houses and has continued to be evident in many barns and outbuildings. The frame construction tradition established in Cape Breton Island likewise continued in Newfoundland; it is fair to say that at the time of migration Codroy Valley builders chose to build the kinds of buildings they were familiar with in Cape Breton Island. -- While the antecedent area of Cape Breton island exerted much influence on Codroy Valley architecture, another source area was the coastal fishing settlement of Codroy. Predominantly English and protestant by the mid-eighteenth century, Codroy village was a source region for small, one and one-half storey frame dwellings and provided early Codroy Valley settlers with a knowledge of fishing technology. -- Economics was yet another important factor in the shaping of this building tradition. As the economic stability of the farming community increased in the latter years of the nineteenth century, newer architectural patterns began to be accepted. No longer were residents willing to rely solely upon the older ways of building, but were instead adopting more modern house types-the international fashions of the time. But the community did not reject the old and totally accept the new; rather, they reacted conservatively to the introduction of these international fashions, accepting some of the features, and ignoring others. What resulted from this amalgam was a unique blend of traditional and modern housing, a mixture which makes Codroy Valley architecture distinctive. -- As the twentieth century developed mass housing forms began to infiltrate the region, but residents chose again to accept only a small number of these outside forms. Of the wide variety of mass housing available, residents selectively borrowed only a few templates, and modified these to suit their own requirements. -- While mass housing forms influenced the region, so too did local traditions. One common traditional activity in the district was the altering and moving of buildings for a variety of reasons. The house moving and modification reveals that vernacular architecture is not inert but is rather, organic in nature. A close study of one farm in Great Codroy shows that farms were also dynamic, being extensively modified with the passage of time, as well as the place where much of Codroy Valley living and working occurred. Cultural traditions, too, affected the architecture; occasions such as weddings, wakes, mummering, millings and visiting and the kinds of social events accompanying these traditions meant that appropriate spaces were allocated in the region's dwellings to hold such traditional activities. -- Ultimately this thesis is about people--the people of the Codroy Valley--and how they manipulate their physical and natural environment. This study can assist others, including developers, builders, planners or citizens, in making decisions about the future architectural needs of the many rural communities of Canada.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10952
Item ID: 10952
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 442-478.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1990
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Newfoundland and Labrador; Codroy Valley
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Architecture, Domestic--Newfoundland and Labrador--Codroy Valley; Dwellings--Newfoundland and Labrador--Codroy Valley; Vernacular architecture--Newfoundland and Labrador--Codroy Valley.

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