Walter Lynch found himself a time machine.
It doesn’t come in the form of a police box belonging to an immortal doctor or a grey DeLorean surfing the time waves between two different Hill Valleys.
Instead, Lynch’s machine is an early 20th-century two-level biscuit box located on Irishtown Road in the picturesque town of Brigus.
In recent weeks, the 30-year-old from Upper Island Cove has started stripping the inside of the building. With each stroke of the hammer, he’s been uncovering something he hasn’t seen before, buried beneath another level of history.
“That’s what it feels like. You can literally see the layers of time,” said Lynch.
Lynch closed the sale of the home in late January and things have taken on a rapid pace since then.
The first order of business has been to level the building. That meant stripping the floor and jacking up the foundation.
“The house has had several renovations over the years, of course, but anything we find original, we’re going to be keeping in some way, shape or form,” said Lynch.
Since buying the home, he has jumped headlong into finding out about its history.
It was originally built by John Morrissey and his wife, Mary. The original construction date is a bit fuzzy, but Lynch can trace it back as far as 1916, for sure, based on conversations with relatives of the original owner.
John worked for the telephone company and it is believed he was one of the first to have a telephone in the town.
Along with old telephone equipment, Lynch has also found dozens of pairs of leather shoes along with cobbler tools.
“Every day, I am learning a lot more,” said Lynch.
The idea of restoring an historical home has long appealed to him. Lynch has spent much of the last decade building new homes, but his heart lied in the old.
“I always wanted to get a historical property,” he said. “I jumped on (the sale) and bought it.”
Newer homes always felt a bit bland to him and cookie cutter. Those are part of the reasons why Lynch is documenting his efforts.
As he works through the process, he will be posting pictures and videos to an Instagram account dedicated to tracking the progress.
Since Jan. 30, Lynch has made 35 posts. In those posts, he’s shown the results of his rebuild until now and some of what he’s found in those sands of time.
It’s been enough to garner him over 800 followers. Further to that, Discovering Newfoundland will be checking out the build and documenting it for a mini-documentary.
A preview of that is available via their YouTube page.
“Documenting the building process to share with people is something that always interested me,” said Lynch. “I usually do new builds which can be quite boring and cookie cutter.
“This project seemed like the perfect opportunity. It crossed so many interests for different people.”
Shane O’Dea has had a home in Brigus since 1987. Then, he was taking ownership of what was a derelict home in town.
O’Dea quickly went about preserving the home, much to the pleasure of the neighbourhood. Most of the materials used in his home were original.
“People in the neighbourhood, particularly a couple of former people out of Brigus who had bought country houses out there, were delighted to see the house undergoing restoration,” he said. “We were very well received.”
As a town, Brigus has a keen interest in maintaining its historical look. With its narrow roads and seamless blend of the old and new, the heart of the town is a perfect marriage between historical and modern.
The application for its heritage district has regulations for keeping buildings as close to the original as possible.
“I think it is important that we keep as many as the ones that are there as possible,” said O’Dea. “They contribute collectively to the streetscape, to the sense of the place.
“Each one that is preserved feeds another one and helps to keep the whole landscape working.”
The restoration of old homes works as a way of preserving a piece of that area’s culture and the people who once lived there.
Preserving a building is a way of preserving their life and the work they did.
“By preserving as much of it as we can, even if they’re not necessarily the oldest buildings in the community, I think it is important to preserve that sense of place,” said Heritage NL executive director Jerry Dick.
They’re also windows into construction methods and the building ideas of the day.
“A lot of these are quality buildings,” said Dick. “There is real craftsmanship there and an understanding of how to work with local materials.”
While the Lynch home doesn’t fall inside the heritage district for Brigus, he has no plans to completely modernize the home.
Lynch plans on using as much of what he pulls out of the home as he can. That means materials could either be used in restoration as construction material or as a decorative piece
Anything he doesn’t use; he anticipates he will work with the local heritage society to make the best use of it.
Lynch wants the finished product to pay homage to the original product while mixing in some modern elements.
“My goal for this house is that when you walk into this house is it feels like the new version of what it would have been in the 1900s, except you can Netflix and chill,” he said.
Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice