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THE CITY OF MOUNT PEARL

1880 - 1928

<<The City Of Mount Pearl •Back• 1928-1950>>

Technology & Development

The late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in Mount Pearl was a period of gradual change. The population continued its slow increase, a railway was constructed, the Royal Navy built a Wireless Station and several historic flights took place.

Mount Pearl Families in the Late Nineteenth Century

In 1880, the title "Mount Pearl" referred not only to James Pearl's original estate, but also to the area around the western section of Brookfield Road and Old Placentia Road. John and Mary Lester had eleven children by this time, some of whom had grown up and started their own farms neighbouring Fairmead. When John Lester died in 1893, his children and grandchildren continued the tradition of farming in Mount Pearl. Andrew Glendenning at this point was still leasing the land from Graham and Smith and also continued to farm. Glendenning formally bought the farm in 1898. Other family names in the area include Nolan, Eales, Brophy, and Connolly, all of whom are presumed to have been farmers. There is no record of any vigorous farming activity in the Anna Vale/Glendale area at that time.

A school on the eastern end of Brookfield Road was set up sometime around 1880. The school was a one-room school, and accepted pupils of all religions. Mount Pearl's residents at the time were either Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian and it is known that the Lester children attended this school. The nearest churches would have been located in St. John's and Topsail.

Railway Development

The first stage of construction of the Newfoundland Railway did not affect Mount Pearl directly. The initial line was constructed in 1881 and started at Fort William in St. John's. It travelled along a similar route as Empire Avenue, meeting Topsail Road in the community now known as Paradise. The first stop west of St. John's at this time was at a station called Western Junction (see map, right). A one-room Catholic school house was near the station and was built sometime in the 1880s; this was named St. Anne's school. The area was interchangeably known as St. Anne's, Donovans and Western Junction around the late 1800s.

The name Donovans is a reference to a hotel located on Topsail Road that was owned by the widow Elizabeth Donovan. She purchased the hotel sometime during the 1880s and ran it successfully as both an inn and as a farm. Up until recent times, the area around the hotel was known as the community of Donovans.

In 1898, the Newfoundland Railway took up the rail line between Fort William and Western Junction and replaced it with a new railway that started from Water Street. This line made its way along the Waterford Valley, through the northern section of James Pearl's original estate and connected with the first rail line at Western Junction. This improvement in transportation made Mount Pearl easily accessible from St. John's. Donovans in particular saw immediate benefits from the railway as a rail stop, known as Donovans Station, was built near the hotel. The location became well known as a picnic and lunch area that attracted many St. John's residents looking for a day out of the city.

H.M. Wireless Station, Mount Pearl

There was little change in Mount Pearl during the first 14 years of the twentieth century. Farming continued and there was no dramatic increase in population. The effects of the World War I in 1914, however, were felt in Mount Pearl.

Shortly after the war began, The British Royal Navy commissioned the Marconi Company to construct a series of 13 strategic wireless stations around the globe. During the winter of 1914/1915 a site was chosen in Mount Pearl. Fifty workers and naval engineers created the $500 000 state of the art station. Three 305-feet high towers, a local landmark known as the 'Marconi Poles,' were built to support the antenna wires. They were used primarily to receive government messages and eavesdrop on German wireless transmissions.


The station was decommissioned in 1924 and its buildings and land were old off at an auction to the Parsons that same year. The Parsons re-named their land "Bellevue Farm." Most of the station was dismantled after the auction, but two towers were left intact. They were later used to transmit radio broadcasts. For more information on the station, see the Wireless Station section of the digital archive.

The Atlantic Air Race of 1919

In the spring of 1919, Newfoundland was the starting point for aviators vying to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop. The British aviators used farmers' fields in St John's, Mount Pearl and Harbour Grace, while the American teams flew seaplanes out of Trepassey.

The air race actually had begun in 1913 when the Daily Mail (a London newspaper) offered a prize of 10 000 pounds for the first successful transatlantic flight. However, the air race was postponed as war loomed in 1914. The war produced dozens of experienced pilots and it also improved aviation technology. This set the stage for the race to resume immediately after the armistice was signed in 1918.

The first British contenders to arrive in Newfoundland were pilot Harry Hawker and Navigator Kenneth Mackenzie Grieve. Their test flight in their Sopwith Atlantic left Glendenning's Farm on April 10, 1919, making it the first flight in Newfoundland. Over a month later on May 18, Hawker and Grieve took off from Glendenning's Farm again in their attempt to cross the Atlantic. After a flight of over 14 hours and 1050 miles, an overheated radiator forced them to land at sea. Hawker deliberately landed the airplane near the Danish cargo ship Mary, which successfully rescued them and brought them safely to Scotland.

The air race ended when Alcock and Brown successfully flew the Atlantic non stop on June 14 in their Vickers Vimy. Some time after take off from St John's, Brown contacted HM Wireless Station and shortly after that, power was lost to their radio. In the same year, the R34 airship became the first airship to cross the Atlantic in both directions. That ship also contacted HM Wireless Station as it flew over Newfoundland en route to New York.

The Roaring Twenties

Roland Morris, a sail maker and entrepreneur, purchased land from the Little family in the area that was previously known as Anna Vale. The Littles had not made any significant developments on the land, but when Morris arrived he immediately built a homestead and cleared land for farming. He renamed the area Glendale, the name of a Californian suburb which had impressed Morris with its grid-style layout. He also named the lane leading up to his homestead Glendale Avenue.

Morris believed the area had growth potential and embarked on several business projects, including a berry processing factory and a Christmas tree venture. The berry plant processed the many blueberries and partridge berries in the area and was located on the corner of what was then known as Marconi Line (Commonwealth Avenue). The plant had a railway siding and exported berries to the United States and England.

In 1928, Morris headed a company called Mount Pearl Park Limited, which purchased 219 acres from Andrew Glendenning's northern section of land for $7000. The purpose of Mount Pearl Park was to create a summer cottage community for the well-to-do in St. John's. The company consisted of 26 shareholders that included prominent businessmen of St John's at the time. Construction was completed on Park Avenue, Spruce Avenue, Forest Avenue and Worrall Crescent in 1928. One of the shareholders, Rudolphus Cochius, was the landscape architect of Bowring Park. Cochius also designed Mount Pearl Park, and did so with the intention of creating meandering, tree-lined avenues with neat, square lots for cottage building.

Mount Pearl Park Limited fared well during its construction phase, but the company stalled after the stock market crash of October 1929. The value of land plummeted and resulted in the shareholders' allotment of long rectangular lots of land to develop as they saw fit. Morris's plan for a structured community of Mount Pearl Park did not happen, and unfortunately his berry factory and Christmas tree venture also folded shortly after the crash. Roland Morris left for Ontario after 1929 to find work and did not return to Glendale until 1940.

The "Park" continued to develop, however, and it gradually grew to become the town of Mount Pearl.

<<The City Of Mount Pearl •Back• 1928-1950>>

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