Posted by: alexhickey | February 8, 2014

A Story of a House Part II ©

When a family leaves a house they take with them what they can reasonably expect to make use of in their new house.   Some things just won’t fit, are too cumbersome or have no practical use in the new place so they either get discarded or left behind for the new owners to deal with.  That was no different for Hazel Young’s house which was profiled in Part 1 of this posting.

At which point in time the house became known as Hazel Young’s house I am not certain; however, it occurred sometime between the death of her father and the death of her mother who had been ailing in her later years. When Hazel moved to St. John’s to take up employment as the Director of the Red Cross Hostel, known as Devon House, she judiciously chose what would go and what would stay.  I have seen several dishes and pieces of furniture that once occupied space in the house that were given to close friends prior to her departure.  One large object she didn’t take was prepared for shipment to her by the next family who bought the house after they had moved in.

white snow in foreground with a green two-story house occupying the middle ground with a blue sky in the background.

South View of House

Resettlement happened throughout Fortune Bay in the 1950’s as elsewhere in the province. Some people from smaller communities in Fortune Bay chose to move to St. Jacques.  One of these families was the Osbornes from Red Cove who bought Hazel Young’s house.  They moved in, made friends in the neighbourhood and became part of the community almost immediately.  In very little time folks were no longer referring to the house as belonging to the Youngs.  It had become the Osborne house. Once again the feet of children echoed throughout the rooms and the doors were open to visitors as before.

Minor changes were noted by local residents such as when Uncle Ben moved the back door, changed a window or painted the wooden shingles on the sides of the house.  Aunt Pearl built a small retail store in the garden which generated more traffic than the house had seen in years.  Relatives of the Osbornes came to visit, introducing the neighbours to new acquaintances whom they’d never heard of before thereby extending the reach of the community even further.  The boys’ dad worked away from home on a Department of Fisheries vessel transporting bait to depots throughout the province. Thus there were joyous events when he returned; everyone shared the excitement when Mr. Osborne was coming home. There was also excitement when electricity came to St. Jacques and life took on a different order. Aunt Pearl no longer made ice cream by hand. One year Uncle Ben passed on and the dynamics changed again. A few years later, a decade after moving in, the Osborne family moved again; this time to a growth centre in Placentia Bay, Arnold’s Cove, leaving the house vacant once more.

There were no boards on the windows or no for sale signs in the yard – just an empty house in the midst of a changing neighbourhood.  Friends of the Osborne boys grew up and moved away to study at school or to work.  Other children, too young to know the Osbornes, grew to know it as a vacant house. Then one day word spread through the community that the house would have new residents; an elderly family from Bay du Nord were being resettled to St. Jacques.  The Farrells were coming to town.   Uncle Jack and Aunt Win Farrell along with Winifred’s sister Aunt Gen Lundrigan arrived on the steamer with their belongings and promptly brought lights back to the house at night.

Uncle Jack, as he was known to all though related to but a few, had served as cook on a medical vessel that travelled throughout Fortune Bay, the Lady Anderson.  As a result he was widely known in the community.  His nieces had married in St. Jacques years before and his brother, the renowned teacher Tom Farrell, had already moved to the community a year or so earlier.  Just as before, the house was transformed to become the Farrell house.  Again, minor structural changes were made as the new occupants made the house their home.  Neighbourhood dynamics were different because of their age; however, it took but a short time for the three new neighbours to know everyone by first name.  Aunt Gen, a former post mistress in Bay du Nord, was quite accustomed to daily conversations with folks as they went about their business.  She resumed that role in St. Jacques, chatting up a storm with all ages she encountered. She was as feisty and bold as her sister was quiet and demure.  Uncle Jack was there enjoying his retirement and the many Farrell, Lundrigan and Fitz-Patrick family members who came to visit from other parts of Newfoundland and Canada.

With the passage of time things change and people reach the limits of their lives.  This was the case for the Uncles and Aunts in the Farrell house. With darkened windows at night and no sounds of doors closing throughout the day, the house resumed its pattern of remaining silent and elegant on the side of the road, settling just a bit more on its haunches.

Before long, however, the doors were opening and closing again as a younger family commenced moving from their single story house in the neighbourhood into the old Farrell property. The McCarthys, with young children, carried their personal belongings into the house and spread their ownership throughout the rooms.  Bill and Mabel proceeded to nurture and grow their family inside those walls.  They too made minor structural changes to accommodate their needs and to modernize aspects of the house to changing standards. A brick chimney disappeared, and another shinier one received more extensive use as heating was centralized with a wood stove in the front kitchen. Again, windows underwent changes, particularly the dormers on the second story, which were removed and their openings closed in.  Years flashed by and older children moved out leaving a much smaller family in the large wooden house.  Bill and Mable, with motivation fueled by health issues, moved away to Grand Falls, closing the doors on the house again.

winter scene with a green house in the middle of the image; snow in the foreground and trees covered with snow in the background.

North Side of House

This time the fire had barely cooled in the kitchen stove when news that the house had been sold began to circulate.  Someone from next door, who grew up in the shadow of the house and mingled with most of the families that lived there, had purchased it as a summer home.  A young Hickey man, they said, was going to renovate the place and put it back to what it looked like when the Young’s lived there.  Unlike all previous owners, he didn’t move his family in and occupy the house year round; he went about effecting changes which highlighted the character of the old house.  Walls were exposed to show the original pine boards positioned vertically to create single partition walls; modern wall panels were removed to reveal layer upon layer of multi-coloured wall paper pasted there by generations of different families – a collective effort of branding and identity.

The small veranda which had been removed many years prior, was replaced by a large open deck, designed to celebrate the vista in front of the house; a view which Sam and Martha looked at across the harbour many evenings as the warm, orange-gold of the sun’s rays spread across the walls of their parlour; a view the Osbornes still treasure in their memories; a view the Farrells noted was much different from Bay du Nord but equally as beautiful; a view that the McCarthys were very familiar with.

Memories of the rooms in that house live in many places on this planet; in the hearts and minds of those who either lived inside the walls or visited those who did live there.  It still leans a little, as though pausing to reflect, to remember the voices, the sounds, the feelings, the dreams and the disappointments of those it sheltered.  Each new owner inherited a house which was transformed into a home unique to them; cherished and cared for by them with limited knowledge of those who walked through those same spaces just years before them.  Some things managed to remain, to hold on to the home and give future residents just a glimpse into the lives of its previous owners.  Mr. Osborne had the pleasure of building a packing crate large enough to house an ornate, hardwood horse sleigh and ship it to Hazel Young that harkened back to Victorian times and the nostalgic image of sleighs at Christmas time.  The Farrell’s inherited a wood stove which gave off enough heat to induce drowsiness within minutes of entering their back kitchen as it had done for a couple of generations. The McCarthys found odd dishes remaining on kitchen shelves; dishes that had graced tables and meals bringing nurture to people whose lives were unknown to them.  The latest owner found a newspaper with coverage of the referendum that saw Newfoundland choose to join the Canadian Confederation; a school report card from one of the McCarthy children; and a discarded vintage tobacco tin probably left behind by the Farrells.

Last year I gave my brother assistance removing weeds from what used to be a delicate flower garden on the southern side of the house and found a silver teaspoon created in 1882 in Pennsylvania. It caused me to stop and look around, not for more silverware, but for the presence of all those people who had also stood on that spot, who had sung and cried in the space surrounding me, who had called this house their home; a home unlike any other, special to them and special for years to come.

The Osbornes, Farrells, Lundrigan, McCarthys and Hickeys who have shared this old second empire style of architecture also share a common thread which was anchored to the ground beneath the house when Sam Young and his brothers laid the foundation well over a century ago; a thread of continuity across time, one which extends forward whenever a new set of hands join the greater family whose common heritage is time spent under its mansard style roof.

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Responses

  1. What a great history of that house. Very interesting.

  2. Great Post.invaluable in terms of keeping the history alive.Having lived across the road for many years I found myself reliving the many visits, some of the conversations and cups of tea that we had in that ole house.I look forward to your next piece.

  3. Thank you so much for the wonderful history. Sam Young was my great grandfather.

  4. This article brought back a flood of wonderful memories of the childhood summers I spent in this house visiting my grandmother, Martha Young and my Aunt Hazel. My parents William and Marion Young, along with my brother Jim and I, visited every summer. Both Jim and I always looked back on it as the best time of our lives. As I read the article I was walking through the house in my mind remembering every detail of it and the happy times we spent there. Thank you so much for this excellent article. I have to admit it brought tears.

  5. Very interesting read; my mother was born in St. Jacques. Also, I’m trying to find a painting of St. Jacques, hoping you could offer suggestions. Tks for keeping it alive!!!

  6. Very interesting indeed,I’m now living with one of them McCarthy boys who lived in the house and I had the joy of staying in the old house on visiting St Jacques. I always wondered about the history of it and my boyfriend only knew so much,now I know and would like to see it restored.Thanks for the history.

  7. I spent many Sundays in that house having dinner with Aunt Gin and Aunt Win, listening to the stories of Upper Canada. They made us smokes for any chores we did around – very talented with the makins. Very well written; brings back so many memories.


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