The FPU Factory/Advocate Building is a three storey wooden structure, located on Main Street in Port Union, NL. It is one of the structures that make up the Port Union National Historic District (also recognized as a Registered Heritage District by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador). The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
The FPU Factory/Advocate Building was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2002 because of its historic and aesthetic value.
The FPU Factory/Advocate Building was built by the Fishermen’s Protective Union (FPU), led by labour advocate, William Coaker. Coaker formed the FPU in 1908 to mobilize rural Newfoundlanders to fight for fishery reform and fishermen’s right to a fair wage. He rapidly gained support in rural Newfoundland, particularly among Protestants on the northeast coast. Spurred by the FPU’s successes, Coaker began constructing Port Union in 1916. It remains the only union-built town in Canada. Sitting in the FPU membership heartland, Port Union was designed to be the centre of FPU operations. At the heart of the newly-constructed town was the Fishermen’s Union Trading Company, a fish purchasing cooperative which aimed to break merchant control on fish prices by paying fishermen in cash instead of credit.
Although industry in Port Union centred on fish purchasing and processing, Coaker stressed the importance of economic diversification. The FPU Factory/Advocate Building was home to one such diversification project: a woodworking shop. The shop was located on the second floor and serviced by an electric elevator (possibly the only one outside St. John’s at the time). In 1924, the building also became home to the Fishermen’s Advocate. This influential – and often controversial – popular newspaper began publication in 1910 as a means to communicate the ideals of Coaker and the union. The newspaper’s headquarters were based in Port Union until publication ceased in 1980. As part of the Port Union Historic District, the FPU Factory/Advocate Building speaks to Sir William Coaker’s vision of creating a fair economy for working-class Newfoundlanders.
The building is a good example of early twentieth-century industrial construction in an outport context. With a design that focuses on function over style, decorative features such as bias-cut plank doors and a diamond window add visual interest to the structure. The FPU Factory/Advocate Building survived the 1945 fire which destroyed several nearby buildings, including Port Union’s original fish plant, retail store and hotel. The FPU dwindled in the post-Confederation era. By the 1990s, economic decline had left the FPU Factory/Advocate Building (and many other Port Union buildings) in a state of disrepair. Since that time, there has been increasing community interest in preserving the heritage of this unique, union-built town. In 2004-5, the Sir William F. Coaker Heritage Foundation restored the old building. It is currently a community interpretation centre and museum, retaining its historic woodworking machinery and printing presses.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “ Port Union – FPU Factory/Advocate Building – FPT 264”
Character Defining Elements
All those exterior features that are reflective of the age, industrical character, and original function of the property including:
-three-storey building height;
-with four-storey elevator shaft head;
-use of narrow wooden clapboard;
-wooden corner boards;
-exterior colours (ochre and cream);
-wooden window size, style, trim and placement;
-diamond window at top storey of elevator shaft;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-exterior wooden doors with bias-cut planking;
-transom window over main entrance;
-sidelights on main entrance;
-raincaps over windows and doors;
-scale, location and orientation of building, and;
-proximity to other industrial and residential buildings which make up the Port Union Historic District.
Location and History
Town of Trinity Bay North
1923 - 1923
Fishermen's Protective Union
Rectangular Long Façade