MEADOWS, N.L. - Weldon Brake’s grandmother, Minnie, would wave a white apron out towards the water of the Humber Arm in front of her house in Meadows.
Her husband Hayward, involved in the herring business back then, during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, wasn’t always able to dock his schooner because of weather conditions.
“He and my grandmother had a code,” Weldon said.
Whenever it was necessary for him to come to shore, she would signal him with the apron.
That Brake family tale was recently immortalized as a stained glass window installed with a porthole as its frame, and hung inside the Olde Brake House Museum — one of the newer items by far in the museum Weldon now operates as a feature of his Bay of Islands Inn.
The house was originally built by his great-grandfather, Cornelius, sometime between 1848 and 1878 as far as the family knows, Weldon says.
Cornelius and his wife, Eliza, had no children, but adopted three boys, one of whom was Hayward, Weldon’s grandfather.
In the 1930s, Weldon’s mother Jessie inherited the house from her grandmother, Eliza, and lived there with her husband Stanley. Weldon was born in the house and was raised there until he was in his early teens. His parents gave him the house in 1978 and since that time, he has made it his mission to restore it and add to it.
Holding a collection of historical artifacts, personal period items, paintings and furniture, the house’s new purpose as a museum is for education and enjoyment.
It has a design typical of the period, with posts and beams sawed by a pit saw, and bay windows facing the water. All the furniture pieces are original artifacts, many crafted by renowned Newfoundland furniture maker William Winter.
Weldon has since built around the perimeter, but the museum itself is housed in the same original structure that his ancestors occupied in the 1800s, with all 10 rooms frozen in time as if a member of the family had just left them.
Previously available for viewing by appointment only, Weldon recently decided to make it open to the public every day from 2-4 p.m.
Officially listed at 203-A North Shore Highway, there is no actual number on the house.
It’s not hard to find, however, as it is the big, red house seen down by the water in Meadows just past the Anglican church and an abandoned gas car. There’s also a sandwich board on the side of the highway indicating where the museum is, and a sign on the building itself as well.
“So, you can’t miss it,” Weldon says.
The open house formula began in the first week of July and he said he’s had about two people come by each day, including one tourist from Estonia.
One group of people in particular who have taken part in viewings over the past couple of years, he said, have been international students from Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
“From all over the world, basically,” he said. “They were very impressed.”
He admits he may be biased, since he owns the place, but he doesn’t believe a similar experience exists anywhere nearby.
“This probably surpasses anything, not just in Newfoundland, but probably the country,” he said.