Culture and history

Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site

Hawthorne Cottage was designated as a national historic site in 1978 because of its significance both historically and architecturally. It was the Brigus home of Captain Robert Abram (Bob) Bartlett, captain on a number of early Arctic expeditions. Architecturally, the cottage is in the “Picturesque” mode, providing a good example of a gentleman’s modest suburban residence in eastern North America in the 1830s.

The cottage

Hawthorne Cottage was built in the year 1830 by John Leamon, a local merchant. It was originally built 10km away in Cochrandale. In the winter of 1833-34 the cottage was hauled overland on log rollers to its present location in Brigus.

Although an unusual design for Newfoundland, the cottage is an example of the “Picturesque” architectural style; popular in eastern British North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. This unique architectural style is characterized by harmony of architecture and landscape. The garden setting and ornate veranda of Hawthorne Cottage were standard elements of this type of building. Hawthorne Cottage also incorporates features of Newfoundland vernacular architecture, with a large “linhay” or addition on the rear of the original square structure.

black and white photo of family in front of a house
The Bartlett family outside of Hawthorne Cottage.

Through the years, Hawthorne Cottage was passed through generations with various conditions of inheritances, leading to William and Mary Bartlett inheriting it with a stipulation that it pass to their son, Robert. After his death in 1946, ownership of the cottage was passed to his sisters Emma and Eleanor, who ran a teahouse across the street.

Hawthorne Cottage was donated to the Canadian people in 1987 by Robert’s nephew, Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice Rupert W. Bartlett. Today, Hawthorne Cottage displays furnishings and personal belongings of the Leamon and Bartlett families, demonstrating the wealth and status of this outport family. Some rooms are dedicated to outlining the famous career led by Captain Bob Bartlett himself.

Captain Robert Abram Bartlett (1875 – 1946)

black and white portrait of a man
Captain Robert "Bob" Bartlett.

Between 1885 and 1946, Hawthorne Cottage was the Brigus home of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett, commemorated as a person of national significance as an Arctic navigator and explorer. Bob Bartlett was the son of Captain William J. Bartlett and Mary Jemima (Leamon) Bartlett, granddaughter of the original owner of Hawthorne Cottage.

In 1898, Bob Bartlett sailed north as first mate on Commander Robert Edwin Peary’s flagship the Windward. It was participating in this expedition that sparked Bartlett’s interest in Arctic adventure and that brought him to the attention of Peary. In 1905, when Peary asked Captain Bartlett to command the Roosevelt during his next expedition in search of the North Pole, Bob gladly accepted. By laying out a well-planned and detailed route, Captain Bob made it possible for Peary to make his famous “dash” to the pole on April 7th or 8th, 1909.

In 1913, after hearing of Bartlett’s victory, the Canadian government hired Captain Bob to command the Karluk on a major scientific expedition to the western Arctic. During this expedition, the Karluk was crushed by ice. Bartlett and an Inuit companion embarked on a difficult 1280km trek across the ice to the coast of Siberia to report the wreck and organise a rescue for the survivors. Although 11 people perished in this incident, historian Thomas Appleton called Bartlett’s performance “the finest feat of leadership in Canadian marine history.”

Between 1926 and 1940, Captain Bartlett undertook 16 Arctic voyages aboard the Effie M. Morrisey on behalf of various American museums, zoos, universities and scientific organisations. Although Bartlett now lived in New York, He would always visit Brigus along his travel routes, and these visits would be social highlights in the tiny community.

During the Second World War, the United States Navy commandeered the services of Captain Bob, his ship and crew for hydrographic work in Hudson Bay and Greenland.

Bartlett died in New York on April 28th, 1946 and was buried in his hometown of Brigus.

black and white image of Bob Bartlett on a ship

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