A Carbonear Root Cellar

Fitzpatrick's Root Cellar
Fitzpatrick’s Root Cellar, complete with a Canada Goose on top of the roof.

For various professional reasons, John and I took a meander out to Carbonear and Harbour Grace today. He needed to stop in and chat with a fellow named Bern Fitzpatrick and I tagged along, not entirely sure what the day might hold. As we left Harbour Grace and rode over the hill into Carbonear, we encountered a freakish, swirling cloud of snow and whacked off the windshield and threatened our visibility and good humour. On the other side of this apparition was Carbonear, replete with sunny skies and the nicest and neatest little property I’ve had occasion to visit in recent memory. I’m a sucker for a nice barn and a well-kept root cellar and these premises boasted both.

Root cellar entrance
Root cellar entrance. Not the greatest of pictures, but you can clearly see the massive slab of stone that forms the lintel.

Bern is the fourth generation of his family to live on this land. He estimates that the root cellar dates back to his grandfather’s time, possibly earlier. It’s at least a hundred years old and Bern has done a bit of repair work to keep it stable. He rebuilt the roofed structure on top (which is designed to shed water and store cabbages), making it a bit wider than the original. He also rebuilt the rock facade and constructed stone walls surrounding the cellar.

To get into the cellar, you travel down a little corridor, into the heart of the mound. The temperature is nice and even; perfect for storing potatoes and other root veggies.

Root cellar corridor
The blue bins are full of potatoes and carrots!

Once inside, I took time to inspect the architecture and to see how the whole thing was held together. The roof beams look like they could have been old railway rails, although I could be mistaken. They may be slightly smaller. In any event, they were definitely metal girders of some sort and were spaced about 18″ apart (that’s an approximation from memory). Laid atop these were slabs of rocks, possibly slate-typed in nature. Not sure of the exact composition. Some looked like they had been repurposed, since they appeared to have been shaped on one end. The pieces were also fairly uniform in size.

Root cellar roof detail
Root cellar roof detail. Slabs atop beams.

Another shot of the interior is below. The height of the room was around four feet. I am quite short and had to stoop inside.

Root cellar ceiling
A slightly different angle on the ceiling.

The wide angle lens of the camera was a great boon in this situation; I was able to work in cramped quarters quite nicely.

Root cellar roof
Root cellar ceiling, showing beams, slabs and wall concrete.

Just as I was leaving, I spotted a particularly neat feature. Carved into the door, which Bern says has always been there as long as he can remember (and he has been forty-nine for a couple of decades now), is an elaborate ship.

Root cellar door, with ship
Root cellar door, with ship. Not sure who did this or why, but it was a long time ago.

When you look at the cellar from the outside, you expect it to be fairly room. But inside, it’s low. Lots of lateral room, for storage, but not much height.

Bern Fitzpatrick and the Root Cellar
Bern Fitzpatrick talks about his root cellar.

Standing next to the barn, you can see the rear of the cellar in the centre of the picture below.

Barn and cellar
Barn in foreground, root cellar at centre.

And here’s the barn from next to the root cellar.

Fitzpatrick's Farm
I love the huge street lamp on the side. Didn’t notice it until I got the photos home.

Bern is restoring an old plough and plans to borrow a horse to plough his fields. To plant potatoes. Have to fill that root cellar somehow!

Barn door open
They used to have a horse, but don’t any more.

It was a marvelous visit and a complete surprise to find such a solid structure so lovingly cared for.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Judy Cooper says:

    Vicki, these pictures are fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

  2. mjspringett says:

    Great history, thanks for the tour, MJ

  3. hannifrieda says:

    that is one awesome cellar! awesome post 🙂

    1. VickyTH says:

      It was amazing! Like walking into one of those burial mounds or something. The air changed when I got inside. Very, very cool.

  4. George says:

    I know of a root cellar that is totally rock and mortor. All of the stone is placed in such a way that no supports are needed and all stone is totally free standing. My family used it over 70 yrs ago.

    1. VickyTH says:

      Hi George, I’ve seen only a few like that (mostly up near Grates Cove and on Exploits Islands), and they are truly works of art. Where is yours located? If it’s withing driving distance, I’d love to pay a visit!

  5. Lucy Fitzpatrcik says:

    Thanks for the pics…this is my grandparents old place…my uncle now lives there!

  6. Cheryl Marie says:

    Great pictures – This may sound crazy, but I had never heard of a root cellar before!

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