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Corner Windows and Cul-de-Sacs

The Remarkable Story of Newfoundland's First Garden Suburb

By C.A. Sharpe & A.J. Shawyer
Categories: Geography, History, Cultural Studies, Newfoundland And Labrador Studies
Series: Social and Economic Studies
Series Number: 90
Paperback : 9781990445019, 352 pages, December 2021

Table of contents

Acknowledgements (ix)

Prologue (1)


1.     St. John’s before 1888: A Town Unplanned

Transition from Fishery to Industry (8)

A Haphazard Collection of Buildings (10)

Who Owned the Houses? The Leasehold Property System (16)

Absentee Landlords (18)

Public Health: A Desperate Situation (21)

Water Sources, Sewer Systems, and Nuisance (22)


2.     The Fledgling Municipal Council Faces Reality 

Launching the Municipal Council: Straight into Debt (30)

Improving the Water Supply: “Waste Water” and Fire Protection (31)

Expanding the Sewer Network: Not an Easy Task (32)

Public Health Becomes a Priority (39)

Public Health: The Public Becomes Engaged (41)


3.     The Municipal Council Seeks “A Cure for Housing Ills” 

What Was the Urban Reform Movement? (48)

Thomas Adams: An Influential Town Planner (51)

Land Speculation: An Obstacle to Planning (54)

The City Charter: The First Planning Document for St. John’s (55)

Mayor Gosling’s Initiatives (58)

Building Houses for Workingmen: Quidi Vidi, Cavell, and Merrymeeting (61)


4.     The 1920s and 1930s: Difficult Times

Mayor Tasker Cook (1921–29) (68)

The Rotary Club Investigates (69)

Arthur Dalzell: “Is All Well?” (71)

Mayor Charles J. Howlett (1929–32) (74)

Frederick Todd: “Though Slums Are Bad the Cure is Simple” (75)

The Unimaginable: The Arrival of the Commission of Government (1934–49) (77)

Mayor Andrew Carnell (1933–49) (78)

Housing: “Shacktowns,” New Houses, and Old Tenements (79)

Councillor Meaney’s Proposal (88)

The Commission of Government Examines Councillor Meaney’s Proposal (92)


5.     War and Modernity Come to St. John’s

World War II, 1939–45 (95)

The Municipal Council Copes with the “Friendly Invasion” (97)

The War Opens a Window on the World (100)

The Municipal Council and Town Planning (102)

The Municipal Council Pursues Councillor Meaney’s Proposal (104)


6.     “A Humiliating Catalogue of Facts”

The Commission of Enquiry on Housing and Town Planning (110)

Introducing Brian Dunfield (111)

The Six Reports of the CEHTP (115)

The Public’s Reaction to the Report: “A Humiliating Catalogue of Facts” (123)


7.     “A Bold Scheme for Doubling the Living Space of the Town”

Properties: Expropriation, Compensation, and Cost of Acquisition (131)

What Kind of Houses? How Will They Be Financed? (135)

The St. John’s Housing Corporation (137)

The Public’s Reaction to the Proposal (138)

The Fourth and Fifth Interim Reports (140)

Sixth Report: The Commission Resigns (146)

From Dream to Reality: Filtering Out the Poor (147)


8.     Dealing with the Opposition 

Selling the Project to the Dominions Office in London (151)

A Sharp Reminder (157)

The Leasehold Question (159)


9.     Shovels in the Ground 

The Trunk Sewer (162)

Turning the Sod (167)

“The Housing”: Owner-Occupied and Detached (169)

Paul Meschino Joins the Team (170)

Meschino Brings House Styles from “Away” to Newfoundland (173)

Inside Meschino’s Houses: A New Style of Living (178)

Inside Meschino’s Houses: Retaining Newfoundland Tradition (180)


10.  Mr. Dunfield’s Folly?

1945: The Rising Cost of Construction (187)

Construction Begins: “Citizens Enthused Over New Houses” (190)

Unexpected Demands: The “Widows’ Mansions” and the “Soldier Emergency” (193)

1946: The Changing Landscape (199)

Who Could Afford to Buy the Corporation’s Houses? The SJHC Tries to Economize (201)

The SJHC Begins to Lose Control of the Project (210)

The Housing Area Gets a Name (214)

1947: The Axe Falls on the SJHC (215)


11.  Canada Enters the Discussion

1948: Phasing Out the SJHC (219)

The Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (220)

1949: Brian Dunfield Leaves the SJHC (223)

1950: Loose Ends, and a Tangle of Financial Troubles (224)

1951–81: A New Mandate and a New Philosophy for the SJHC (227)

The Residents of the Inner City Are Finally Rehoused (229)


12.  Churchill Park: A Daring Experiment

The Two Mandates of the CEHTP (236)

The Three Villages (239)

Life in Churchill Park (243)

Brian Dunfield and His Passion for “The Housing” (249)


Appendices (253)

Bibliography (322)

Index (357)

About the Authors (363)

The very human story behind the post-war growth of St. John’s and the creation of Churchill Park


  • Winner, The Honourable Edward Roberts History Book Award 2022


At a distance, Corner Windows and Cul-De-Sacs is a study of urban growth, planning, and household reform; up close, the study reveals a much more human story. In 1942, while Newfoundland was in an active war zone, the death rate in St. John’s was higher than anywhere else in the colony. Overcrowded and dilapidated tenements, huddled on a maze of narrow lanes, fell prey to rampant tuberculosis, shockingly high infant mortality rates, and infectious disease. In 1944, under crippling debt, the St. John’s Housing Corporation was formed, with a mandate to build a new garden suburb north of the city that would lead to the abandonment and demolition of the derelict housing. Churchill Park became the core of this residential development, and between 1945 and 1947 more than 200 houses and nearly 100 apartment units were constructed, laying the groundwork for the orderly post-war expansion of the city.


Corner Windows and Cul-de-Sacs remains a significant work that will aid in promoting the study of postwar planning and architecture in Newfoundland, a topic overshadowed by public and scholarly interest in the island’s colonial fishing heritage. [This] book stands as a powerful reminder of the classist dimensions of postwar planning as well as the urgent relevance of these issues today.

- Dustin Valen, The Canadian Historical Review