Nfld. & Labrador

Map of lost Newfoundland towns about to become as hard to find as communities themselves

Cliff Brown didn't expect his Newfoundland-inspired product to be a best seller — but he's been wrong about that before.

Cliff Brown's map of abandoned towns is nearly sold out at The Rooms, its exclusive supplier

Cliff Brown's map of abandoned Newfoundland towns has been in demand. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

More than 30 years after he created a bestselling board game, Cliff Brown is dealing with another piece of hit Newfoundland merchandise: Newfoundland's Lost Places, a map highlighting 400 of the island's abandoned towns.

Originally made when he wondered what it would be like to have all the province's department communities visible in one place, Brown who developed the board game Newfoundlandia in the 1980s is looking to print more copies of the map after hearing that it's nearly sold out in the gift shop at The Rooms provincial museum and archives.

Brown spends only about three months of the year in the province, but says he's had a long-standing fascination with Newfoundland history. 

"I always remember the day I visited my mother's place," he said of St. Jones Without, the now-defunct town on the west side of Trinity Bay where his mother was born.

That place is featured on the map, along with a few hundred others that have emptied out for one reason or another. Some of the abandoned towns weren't connected by road, for example. Others were on the south part of the island, requiring crossing a river. 

Brown's map, Newfoundland's Lost Places, shows the names and locations of more than 400 of the island's communities that have disappeared. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

There are actually many more abandoned towns around the island, Brown said. People have messaged him to ask why their own hometown, or that of their older relatives, was not included. But including every community would mean overlapping some of the others, he said.

The maps are sold exclusively through the gift store at The Rooms, and Brown is working to get some additional copies in stock. Its success is not quite as striking as the one he had with Newfoundlandia in 1986, when he sold 7,000 copies of the game in three weeks instead of his expected three years, but it's notable.

Brown's mother's hometown, St. Jones Without, is on the map. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

But ultimately, the map isn't meant as the final word on the former Newfoundland communities worth commemorating, Brown said.

"I kind of think of it more as an artistic piece than a scientific document."

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