Fisheries architecture in Newfoundland and Labrador historically included a complex of buildings and structures referred to as fishing premises. The stage was the most important building, followed by fish drying platforms called flakes.
The early migratory fishery saw stages and flakes usually meant to last just one fishing season. Throughout the eighteenth century, the fishery became more stable and more mercantile interests returned to the same harbour each year. They began to build large, permanent premises.
View of Battle Harbour, Labrador showing large mercantile premises.
Structures such as these were typical of the type built by merchant firms along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Photo courtesy of Maritime History Archive, MUN.
By the nineteenth century fishermen were moving away from large processing facilities in favour of individual family operations. The family stage was a scaled down version of mercantile premises. Many members of one fishing family, including women and children, worked together to process their catch at one site.
View of Torbay showing a cluster of inshore
fishing premises along the beach.
Structures such as these were vital to the family based inshore cod fishery.
Photo courtesy of Torbay Museum.
Present day fishing premises are generally comprised of at least one building, the stage/store, and a wharf. The physical forms of present day fishing stages have remained essentially unchanged from the days of the family fishery. However, relatively few premises have flakes anymore as the process of drying fish has been modernized with mechanical methods, and there is a small commercial market for dried, salt fish.
While traditional fisheries sites across the province have many physical similarities, there are variations in fisheries architecture from one region to the next. For instance, stages in a community with steep cliffs might have quite long "shored up" foundations to provide improved balance and stronger footholds. Our diverse coastline, varying harbour depths and the fish species processed in particular regions explain the element of variety in Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries heritage architecture.