History in Brigus and CupidsBy Newfoundland & Labrador
As one of the oldest cities in North America, St. John's is a place with more than it's fair share of stories. It’s a city where stone buildings, narrow streets, and colourful clapboard all have a tale to tell. And in amongst its heritage landmarks are the amenities that make it a modern metropolitan area. Once you've taken in all that the capital has to offer, feel free to venture off the beaten path. And only one hour away, on one of the most picturesque coastlines in the province, you'll discover two towns just as ripe with stories and full of 19th-century character.
Once called Cuper's Cove, this romantic village is the site of the first English colony in Canada. In 1610, John Guy braved the perilous Atlantic crossing with a boatload of settlers to establish a plantation here. And getting here was only half the fun. Once they arrived, they had to build a new settlement from the ground up while contending with an untamed wilderness and threats from pirates. Peter Easton, one of the most notorious of all pirates, was known to be lurking in Newfoundland waters at that time and local legend has it that John Guy had to pay for his protection with two pigs.
400 years later, not only can you visit the site at Cupids, but you can also watch archaeologists uncover its secrets piece by piece. This is a real treat for history buffs as there are very few sites like this on the continent. Being one of the oldest settlements in North America means the artifacts uncovered here are without a doubt the oldest you’ll find. You can view them at the Cupids Legacy Centre, hosting family history archives, a beautiful faerie garden, and a state-of-the-art museum that brings the story of this colony to life.
And only moments away, stories of a different nature take the stage. You can see some of the province's finest actors at Perchance Theatre, an open-air performance space in Cupids modelled after Shakespeare's famous Globe Theatre in London. Here, you'll see the Bard's work come alive, set against the breathtaking backdrop of one of the oldest villages in North America. Around here, history thrives. And the same can be said for the neighbouring town of Brigus. Only two years younger than Cupids, this idyllic town boasts well-kept architecture, rustic stone walls, lush green gardens, and winding narrow lanes. It can also boast about its share of historic celebrities as well.
Hawthorne Cottage is a National Historic Site and the home of the greatest ice navigator of the 20th century, Captain Bob Bartlett. His biggest claim to fame was guiding American Commodore Robert Peary to within 150 miles of the North Pole in 1909. Nearby Landfall Cottage, dating from 1786, was occupied in the early 1900s by notable American artist Rockwell Kent. Ye Olde Stone Barn, a structure constructed in 1820 that has served as a doctor's residence, a customs house and an actual barn has once again been repurposed as the John M. Leamon Museum, where the history of the town truly comes alive.
No trip to Brigus is complete without a short stroll through the mysterious Tunnel. Carved out of solid rock leading to the harbourside, rumours abound that this shaft points the way to Peter Easton’s pirate treasure, likely the same pirates that troubled John Guy's nearby Cuper's Cove settlement. Truth be told, the tunnel was created to give fishing Captain Abram Bartlett better access to unload his catch. But around here, we're not about to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Come see what stories await you on the Baccalieu Coastal Drive. And be sure to check out the Brigus Blueberry Festival for three days of music, food, dancing, fireworks, and – of course – blueberries.
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