Corner Brook’s Townsite area was developed between 1924 and 1934 when one hundred and fifty homes were built to house the workers of Newfoundland’s new pulp and paper mill.
The architect, Andrew Cobb, designed four different house types, all permutations of the Craftsman cottage style.
More than seventy type-4 homes were built for skilled laborers.
Types 1, 2 and 3 were reserved for management and all other workers were left to find their own homes.
The individualization of the homes was predetermined through a series of eight structural variations resulting in twenty configurations.
Roof peaks changed orientation by ninety degrees and developed attics with stairway access occurred in half. Floor plans mirrored and rotated from one house to the next and window placement varied.
The other four variations were porch location, lot orientation, 1½ versus 1¾ story and interior staircase positioning.
When built, Townsite was the only area supplied with electricity by Newfoundland Power and Paper.
The homes were well constructed with modern conveniences such as running water, cast-iron bathtubs, indoor flushing toilets and electric lights.
Initially workers were assigned their home and promotion was the only means for upgrading to a larger house.
By 1948 the mill had sold half of the homes to its employees.
Townsite experienced an influx of newcomers like myself with no connection to the mill.
The previous owners of our home were Harry and Annie Oxford.
Harry was a paper maker at the mill and they were likely the second inhabitants.
As the third owner, David transformed the “haunted house” of East Valley into a modern home filled ironically with his Victorian sensibility.
A few years later I moved in and my childhood routines formed by living in a suburban housing development were replaced by adult occupations in a company town.
Each morning I raise my window blinds to a mirror image view and take my daily walk past facades that were once interchangeable.
I visit my neighbours and reminiscent spaces layer in my mind’s eye.
I set out to recreate the uncanny experience of being in these strangely familiar homes recording the personal cluster of artifacts around windows and the individualized framing of our similar views.
Oddly, the uniqueness of each home’s atmosphere dissipated within the camera’s chamber and the images provide witness to the persistence of structure.