2 Rooms is based in one of the oldest buildings in Duntara. This historical saltbox house was hand-built in 1881 as a fisherman's house. Now renovated as a gallery and museum, this local landmark's painted exterior distinctively displays the traditional architectural colours of the Bonavista region, home of some of the oldest European settlements in Canada.
Mr. Stephen's House, as it was known, is one of two original houses on Pond Lane. Stephen Aylward born in 1863 built the house at age 18 with old board from another house itself 50 or 60 years old. He was a fisherman and early settler of Broad Cove, later renamed Duntara, where he lived with his wife and 8 children. After years of fishing he operated a schooner to and from St. John's, providing delivery service to merchants in the area. He is also remembered as a cobbler, pounding leather on a big rock to make and repair shoes.
The site included a barn for horses, cows and sheep, root cellar, and a red building known as "the 'big store' which still stands in its original location across the lane.
At once twine loft, workshop, and meeting place, 'the big store' began as a shop selling sacks of floor and barrels of molasses. Later it was used as a community building for mass, school lessons, and rallies held by William Coaker. This building was purchased by the neighbor many years ago and is well maintained today.
Architecturally Mr. Stephen's house has some noteworthy features. Typical saltbox houses rarely had the front door so obviously off-centered. With a centre- hall plan, windows and doors were placed strategically to balance the awkwardness of different widths of the front rooms . This builder however, created his own sense of charm with the door way off to the left. The truncated roof is a unique marker in Duntara. Stephen Aylward cut his roof down in the late 19th or early 20th century as he approached middle age and his sons left the family home. The house sits atop a steep hill and maintaining the roof on his own would have been too dangerous. Changing the roof was a practical decision that made life easier and reflected the internal change within the household.
Many old houses like this one have stood empty for over 20 years and are in jeopardy of falling down, many others have already been lost. Saving what remains is a vital documentation of 18th and 19th century settlement in the area. Duntara is one of many outport communities on the north side of the Bonavista peninsula that risk losing much of their heritage.
2 Rooms Contemporary Art Projects is an attempt to bring new life into this historical setting.
The house was bought in 2008 and restored in 2012. At the time of purchase the roof was leaking, the back porch had completely rotted, and the interior was in poor condition. The solid stud barn and hayloft fell to the ground when Hurricane Igor swept through the area in 2010.
The two main rooms, kitchen and parlor, have been stripped, cleaned, and painted, providing gallery space on the ground floor. White walls connect stained floors and distressed ceiling, inserting a viewing space between the visible layers of history. The second floor has been preserved as a museum with wall surfaces revealing their original wallpaper and newspaper layers.
The combination of old and new in the building reflects the confluence of past and present currently challenging outport communities across Newfoundland.