Tourism projects promise to inject new life into this picturesque community
By Clayton Hunt, TC Media — Gaultois
Jane Pitfield of Toronto bought a house in Gaultois in June 2008 and has been working ever since to share her fondness for the community with others.
She’s helped revive her new hometown by purchasing the Gaultois Inn and by forming the Gaultois Tourism Association (GTA), which aims to bring more tourists to Gaultois and to the Coast of Bays.
And the approach seems to be working — tourists from Germany, Holland, England, the United States, Australia have visited the community of roughly 300 people, as well as people from mainland Canada.
And now Pitfield, in conjunction with the GTA, has a new plan in mind. The GTA is involved in two projects to help boost tourism, starting this year.
Tea Room at Piccaire
After the GTA noticed that visitors to Gaultois like to hike to the resettled community of Piccaire, it obtained a Job Creation Partnerships project grant of $42,632 from the provincial government to dismantle a house in Gaultois, take it piece by piece to Piccaire and reassemble it as a Tea Room in the former community, which is about an hour’s walk from Gaultois.
“We hope that the Tea Room will be a favourite destination for hikers in 2013, and especially during our 2013 Come Home Year, which will be held from Aug. 8 to 11,” Pitfield said.
“When hikers arrive in Piccaire, there will be someone there to serve tea, buns and muffins. We will also have a floating dock in place which people who want to visit Piccaire by boat may utilize. We will also be providing a boat service where hikers can take a boat ride back to Gaultois if they prefer after having toured the area.
“There are any number of people who still have a strong attachment with Piccaire, and it’s important that we give people an opportunity to visit the community via this project. It’s important, too, that we keep the history of resettlement alive for today’s generation of young people.”
Pitfield said that the workers involved in the project — Garfield Simms, Audrey Simms, Ronald Simms, Violet Engram and Christine Andrews — did a great job of building the tea room.
Restoring the Customs House
The GTA also received a $60,190 Job Creation Partnerships project grant to restore the Customs House, which was built in the 1930s and last owned by Jonas Simms. It is now owned by the GTA, which has big plans for the building.
“On the main floor,” Pitfield said, “we will have a restaurant and a small bar which will be open year-round. We will also restore the customs office, which was located on the first floor. This area of the house will also include a big kitchen and a pantry.
“The top floor will include three lovely bedrooms which will be all furnished with old iron beds, hooked mats on the floor, washstands with a jug and basin, which will all look very much like it did in the 1930s. There will also be two washrooms on the second floor with one containing an antique-like bathtub, while the second will include a modern shower stall. There will also be a small washroom on the first floor.”
Pitfield said the Customs House will provide three full-time jobs when it opens in mid-December this year.
Gaultois has also received a $12,000 Wellness Grant from the province, which is being used to educate seniors on topics like fall prevention, quitting smoking, proper nutrition and the benefits of regular exercise.
“The Customs House will also be used by seniors for activities such as card games and other events for this age group,” Pitfield said.
“About 40 per cent of the people in Gaultois are seniors, and it’s important that these people don’t live in isolation, that they have an opportunity to get out and socialize. We also hope to have students from Victoria involved in interaction activities with the seniors.”
The residents restoring the Customs House are Albert Rose, Craig Engram, Gloria Piercey, Doris Rose and Bonnie Skinner. Leann Skinner is the wellness co-ordinator for the community.
Former Garland’s Store
The Garland’s Store in Gaultois, built in 1925, was last owned by Roy Ingram. It was one of a chain of 23 Garland Stores in the Coast of Bays and is the last one to have been in operation. It closed for business in 2007 following the shuttering of the community’s fish plant.
Pitfield bought the store on Oct. 15, 2012 and hired five people to do renovations on the building, which will play a key tourism role starting this year.
“The main floor of the store will contain an interactive centre which will tell the story of Gaultois from the time of the Maritime Archaic Indians to the Beothuk to the Mi’kmaq to the French and then to the English,” Pitfield said.
“There will also be a section on the community’s fishing history, from the Newman’s whaling station on Lamy Island to the fresh fish plant which started operations back in the 1950s to today’s aquaculture industry.”
The story of the resettlement program of the 1960s will also be told. There were about 15 communities on Long Island that are now abandoned. Gaultois is the only one left.
“The upstairs floor, which is in the best shape of the entire building, will be utilized as a craft shop where we will have people making/selling crafts that many tourists like to buy when they visit outport Newfoundland,” Pitfield said.
“These crafts will include knitted goods, quilts, rug hooking, woodworking and jewelry making. We are hoping that tourists can see actual demonstrations by local artisans making crafts when they visit the store.
“People want to experience Newfoundland heritage when they visit in viewing old buildings and in purchasing our arts and crafts. These projects are not only about restoring old buildings as they are also about restoring a community and the residents’ pride in their history and culture.”
Pitfield has operated the Gaultois Inn for the past two summers and has hosted a number of tourists.
“In 2011 we were lucky to have a (Newfoundland) Light and Power crew stay at the inn for 40 nights. In 2012, the inn was busy enough for me to hire four people at the facility and two carpenters to do some work for me around the community.
“We managed to do this even without a lot of fanfare and advertising in travel magazines. So, yes, we are seeing an increase in the numbers of tourists here and many are talking about the wonderful experience of visiting Gaultois. As a matter of fact, two ladies from Australia were so taken by their visit that they decided to buy a home in the community.
“It’s people like that who will certainly add to the future of the community.”