TWILLINGATE, N.L. – What appears as one worn and rotted wharf and stage is earning a new reputation as a renowned historic artifact of Twillingate Island.
With careful steps across an intact center beam — on an otherwise flimsy and deteriorating path of boards — one comes to this century-old structure that many a fisherman tied their boats to.
Its wooden pillars are planked against the sea rock, holding the stage up all across its flooring. The original bottom beams that make up its foundation are all pierced with wooden pegs. It stands firm and tall as an anomaly and a testament to these old-time construction techniques.
Amazingly, the relic has remained in place for over 100 years with very little repair work ever needed.
Current property owner Ernest Simmons stores much of his lobster traps and fishing gear inside the wharf.
He has lived near the wharf down at the end of Gillard’s Lane since he was a boy.
Simmons says the only work done on the structure he can recall is the replacement of the roof sometime in the 1970s.
“Other than that, there hasn’t been any work done,” said Simmons. “It’s hard to believe it’s still holding up. Some of the original lungers in there are just as sound now if you went in the woods and cut them today.”
Simmons believes there are several factors that have kept this wooden piece of architecture intact through many decades against the rough Atlantic waters.
The stage rests on above-sea rocks firmly planted into the ground, unlike many modern wharfs which have rocks artificially rolled in beneath the wharf. Those can often move out from the under the structure with changing tides. The wharf also has some naturally protective barriers to shelter it from damage wrought by waves and rough seas.
“When the sea comes in, there’s a point out here that stops a lot of the waves and takes the sting out of them,” Simmons explained, pointing to some nearby rock cliffs that extend far out from the beach.
But Simmons can’t deny that the surviving wharf is an odd occurrence, and sheer luck is a plausible factor in the wharf’s survival.
The wharf seems to have no official name, though is sometimes called Greenham’s wharf or Elijah’s wharf – depending on who you ask. It is believed by many to be the oldest one still standing and still in use on Twillingate Island.
The wharf has also become an increasing draw for visitors and tourists, with Twillingate painter Ted Stuckless having done a popular rendition of the historic sight.
“In the summertime it’s unreal,” said Simmons. “It’s in the hundreds the people that come down here, set up their tripods and take pictures of that.”
Tourists flock in awe to see this historic piece of architecture standing the test of time against forceful elements that have destroyed many modern wharfs. But for Simmons, this rare relic remains a useful and familiar spot for fishing and storage.
“I started fishing in 1972, but I’ve been using that wharf all my life,” he said. “With all that gear I got quite a mess made inside of it too.”