"This House Was Built by Newfoundlanders": Race, Reconstruction, and Self-Reliant Landscapes in Southern Newfoundland
- Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
- University of Minnesota Press
- Volume 28, Number 1, Spring 2021
- pp. 84-108
- Additional Information
This essay examines self-reliant landscapes in Depression-era Newfoundland and their role in addressing colonial anxieties. It argues that self-built housing was a tool for smoothing over aspects of Newfoundland's reality that were incongruous with observers' perceived standards of Britishness. The essay focuses on a small-holdings land settlement established in 1939 near Marystown and supervised by the American social reformer and amateur architect Mary Ellicott Arnold. In 1933, Newfoundland's self-government collapsed, leading British authorities to reinstate direct rule over the dominion. British commissioners were struck by the degraded state of the country's social and physical geography. In 1934, they initiated a land settlement program in an effort to rehabilitate rural fishing families' economic and social standards by turning them into self-reliant homesteaders. In addition to reducing the amount of money spent on poor relief, land settlements taught fishing families individual responsibility and promoted the sexual division of labor. In Marystown, settlers also built their own homes, using money and expertise provided by the state. Arnold's correspondence, photographs, and drawings offer a rare glimpse of how the commission's policies were implemented on the ground, as well as the critical importance of architecture within the commission's matrix of social reform policy.