The Hudson’s Bay Company Net Loft is a one and a half storey wooden structure, located in Rigolet, Labrador. Built in 1876, it is one of few Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) buildings remaining in the province. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
The Hudson’s Bay Company Net Loft was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997 because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural value.
The Hudson’s Bay Company Net Loft is one of the oldest surviving Hudson’s Bay Company buildings in Labrador. The Net Loft was built in 1876 and was sometimes referred to as the “depot.” The design of HBC buildings was uniform and utilitarian. Uniformity was evident in the colour scheme of HBC buildings. Until the late 1920s they were limed white with black roofs. Due to the unavailability of black paint and tar in Davis Inlet one year, HBC buildings there were painted white and red. District manager Ralph Parsons liked the colour scheme and white buildings with red roofs and trim became the norm, as shown on the Rigolet Net Loft. Located next to the wharf, the one-and-a-half storey building contained 34 storage bunks in the loft and rafters for fishing nets. Painted on the beams above the bunks were the names of fishing stations or family surnames to distinguish who owned which nets. The HBC owned the gear and leased it to families in exchange for one third of the season’s catch. The Net Loft was used for storage by HBC until 1989 when the company pulled their operations out of Rigolet. The building received its heritage recognition in 1997 and was renovated. In 2002, the Net Loft was opened as a museum and interpretation centre.
The HBC played an important role in the development of the community of Rigolet, along with other communities in Labrador. Much of the permanent settlement on the Labrador coast is as a direct result of the European exploitation of the resources in the area, with an increasing number of settlers arriving over time, and Indigenous cultures having to adapt to the changes they brought with them.
There is evidence that early Indigenous groups had been in the Rigolet area in Hamilton Inlet as many as 6000 years ago, including the Maritime Archaic, Paleo-Eskimo, Dorset and the Thule – the predecessor of the Labrador Inuit. The Inuit settled in Hamilton Inlet around 1600. The French trader Louis Fornel landed in Rigolet (Rigoulette) in 1743, and soon after, in 1763, the English took control of the Labrador coast. In 1821 the Governor of Newfoundland sent an expedition to “Esquimaux Bay” (Hamilton Inlet) where the party came across a group of Inuit canoeing, and saw that Canadians had established a minor salmon fishery managed by Europeans, some of whom had married Indigenous women. This operation’s main purpose was to trade for furs with the Inuit. A trader named D.R. Stewart created his own post in Rigolet in the 1830s, followed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1836 under Simon McGillivray. HBC quickly bought out Stewart’s business, making HBC Rigolet the primary commercial enterprise in the area from that point on. Initially the Rigolet enterprise focused on the fur trade, but as it was an insufficient venture in that area, HBC shifted its focus to the salmon fishery, spawning the necessity of a net loft.
In these early days of HBC Rigolet, some buildings were partially constructed of sod and mud, possibly the structures built by Stewart. By 1839, there were at least 8 buildings at the trading post. Harsh winters meant that repairs were frequently made, and the wharf was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt following destructive ice flows. An extensive boardwalk connected most buildings and led to the wharf to make the transportation of supplies and goods easier. Workers, known as servants, were mostly from the Orkney Islands in Scotland, but also came from Quebec, Newfoundland, and some from Norway. Inuit were sometimes hired in temporary positions. The seasonal round of labour these workers engaged in was, and remains, an important component of life on the northern coast of Labrador.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Rigolet – Hudson’s Bay Company Net Loft – FPT 1615”
Character Defining Elements
All elements that define the building’s vernacular design including:
-mid pitch roof;
-number of storeys;
-wooden roof shingles;
-narrow wooden clapboard;
-wooden corner boards;
-wooden window size, style, trim and placement;
-size, style, trim and placement of exterior wooden doors;
-dimension, location and orientation of building, and;
-white paint on exterior walls with red trim and red roof.
Location and History
Town of Rigolet
1876 - 1876
Hudson's Bay Company
Rectangular Long Façade