Literary landmarks: St. John's, Newfoundland

Newfoundland is one of Canada's hottest spots for literary success: authors including Michael Crummey, Lisa Moore, Michael Winter and Wayne Johnston have called the rock home and write about it in many of their novels.

Angela Antle, the host of CBC Radio's WAM, helped us put this list together.

If you are headed to Canada's most eastern province and want to check out a bookish attraction, start with our list of landmarks below!

Headed to another city? Check out our complete Literary Landmarks series here!


The Ship Pub

shippub.jpg

Image: Jessica, Creative Commons


The Ship Pub is the 'Algonquin Table' of the booming St. John's arts scene. Elegantly 'grody' with a wood stove, pool table and busy live music stage, the Ship is the place where filmmakers woo writers, dancers pick up drummers and potters dance with fiddlers. The Ship just might be the "magic sauce" that holds the whole multidisciplinary racket together. Plenty of authors have pints here, so keep your eyes peeled when stopping by.


Gibbet Hill


Gibbet Hill, which is just below Signal Hill, the national historic site, is where the British Navy had a hangman's noose, used frequently as a crime deterrent. It's also where Rick Mercer's political satire career was launched.

rick-mercer-584.jpg

(Photo credit: Sheilagh O'Leary)


Chapel Street Harbour Pilot Light

chapel-pilotlight.jpg

Image: Google Maps


The harbour pilot light is located at 14 Chapel Street. It is used by ships navigating the narrow entrance to St. John's harbour. Author Michael Crummey, known for his novels River Thieves and Galore says when he lived on Chapel Street, it lit up his bedroom at night. (If you ever want to sail into St. John's harbour - here are the port entry details: Entrance to Harbour is made through a narrow channel (91 metres) with green leading lights passing over a depth of 11.8 metres, reduced to lowest normal tide.)



Bowring Park

Peter_Pan_Statue.jpg

Image: Bmpower, Wikimedia


This beautiful park is known for its duck pond and its statue of Peter Pan. The statue was erected in 1925 to honour the grandchild of Sir Edgar Bowring who died when the ship she was travelling on, the Florizel, sank. The dedication reads "In memory of a little girl who loved the Park." The statue is a replica of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens in London, which was commissioned by J.M. Barrie himself.


King George V Institute

kinggeorgebuilding-584.jpg

Image: haven't the slightest, Creative Commons


This building now houses high end condos, but in 1914, during the SS Newfoundland sealing disaster it was the makeshift morgue for the bodies of 78 frozen sealers . Author Cassie Brown says it was the many photos of the morgue and the sealing vessels that convinced Doubleday to publish her account of the disaster, Death on the Ice, in 1972. Death on the Ice was required reading in Newfoundland and Labrador high schools for decades.


Bishop Feild School

bishop.jpg

Image: @BishopFeild


The chosen school for today's artsy downtown kids was the fictional spot Wayne Johnston chose for the first meeting between Joey Smallwood and Sheilagh Fielding in his iconic novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Johnston once said the sharp witted, solitary character of Fielding "shared his vision of Newfoundland."



The corner of Prescott Street and Duckworth Street

prescott-duckworth.jpg

Image: Google Maps


Griffin Poetry Prize-winning poet Don McKay says there's a 'lost' outcrop of 550-odd million year old Aspidella Terranovica fossils near this intersection. These pre-cambrian fossils are somewhere kitty corner to the Tim Horton's on the bottom of Prescott Hill. Don says he once knew where the fossils were but has since "lost" them. If you locate them, take a picture and let him know!


Did we miss your favourite St. John's literary landmark? Let us know!




Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.