Nfld. & Labrador

'All I saw was flames': Historic Twillingate building burns overnight

The Ashbourne House went up in flames overnight in Twillingate.

Ashbourne House destroyed by fire

The Ashbourne House burned late Thursday into Friday morning. (Submitted by Randy Jenkins)

A historic house in Twillingate and focal point of the town stood in ruins Friday, after a devastating overnight fire that took hours to extinguish.

Flames were first spotted around 11 p.m. coming from Ashbourne House, a structure once owned by one of the town's merchant families that sits on Twillingate's shoreline.

"We're living in a small town. As soon as you hear sirens, you go to your windows and look," said Deborah Bourden, who co-owns the Anchor Inn directly across the harbour.

"I looked, and all I saw was flames."

WATCH | Video recorded by Randy Jenkins shows the extent of the fire at Ashbourne House

Twillingate fire strikes heritage property

2 years ago
Duration 1:04
Video shot by Randy Jenkins shows how a fire struck Ashbourne House, a historic home in Twillingate, N.L.

Randy Jenkins learned from a Facebook post that the building was a fire. As he and his wife drove to the scene, he said he could see flames "shooting well into the night sky."

He added, "This house is dearly loved by all of Twillingate.… It's the type of thing you can't replace."

Twillingate fire Chief Craig Clarke said when firefighters arrived on scene, two floors were engulfed in flames. A crew of 19 worked for hours trying to put out the blaze. 

Twillingate fire Chief Craig Clarke says the fire 'was a hard one to knock down.' (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"It was a hard one to knock down, I'm telling you,… It was burning, it was burning good," he told CBC News on Friday. 

He said the cause of the fire is under investigation. 

'Sad day'

The house and nearby buildings such as the Ashbourne Office, Ashbourne Longhouse and Ashbourne Shop are described as "rare, surviving extant examples of early mercantile/fishing premises in Newfoundland," according to Canadian Register of Historic Places. 

Some of the other buildings are registered historic structures, with their initial construction dating back before 1897.

"The Ashbourne properties are physical reminders of Twillingate's history as a vibrant and prosperous port town driven by the fishing and shipping industries," states the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador's entry on the area.

Ashbourne House itself was separated by a field from the other properties, which appear to have been untouched by the blaze.

Prior to the blaze, the Ashbourne House had been operating as a tearoom. (Submitted by Randy Jenkins)
Much of the structure was destroyed by Friday morning. (Submitted by Randy Jenkins)

Bourden grew up with one of the Ashbourne family members, and said she thought of him as she saw a building she knew all her life "just disappear."

"It was a prominent historic building in our town," she said.

Social media posts, texts and calls rippled out among residents about the fire, alerting Mayor Grant White on Thursday night. Still on the scene around 6:30 a.m. NT Friday and talking to firefighters, White confirmed it was a loss.

"The majority of the building is destroyed and certainly is a sad day," he said.

Fire crews battled the blaze overnight and were still on scene Friday morning, says Twillingate Mayor Grant White. (Submitted by Randy Jenkins)

The house had had different owners in recent years. Most recently, it had been turned into a tearoom.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning and Garrett Barry

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