The Conception Bay Museum is located at 1 Water Street East, inside the old Customs House. Originally built in 1870, the present-day brick-and-stone structure replaced the previous customs office—a wooden, thatch-roofed building. Nearby, the pirate Peter Easton constructed fortifications at Capelin Cove, circa 1612. George Tapp is credited as the architect of the Customs House, having been sent to Harbour Grace to build such a stone structure in the 1860s. Reports say that the Gordon family lived upstairs immediately after its completion and are believed to be its first inhabitants. Any boats coming in and out of the harbour would be subject to tariffs and checks from the customs officer. The officer would work and live inside the building with his wife and children. The servants’ quarters was located on the third floor. (The old servants’ staircase can be seen in the ‘Sewing Room,’ located adjacent to the Museum’s ‘Aviation Room.’)
The Museum offers a unique heritage and cultural experience for those interested in the history of Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Currently at the Museum, we have: an ‘Aviation Room,’ where visitors can learn about Harbour Grace’s important role in transatlantic aviation (including the story of the world’s most well-known female pilot, Amelia Earhart!); a ‘Pirate Room,’ which contains storyboards relating to Peter Easton’s adventures in Newfoundland and on the Atlantic; a ‘Fishing Room’ presenting the history of mercantile fishing and shipbuilding in the region; a ‘World War Exhibit’ (with regimental uniforms), dedicated to the island’s military and naval legacy; and a ‘Period Setting Room,’ filled with traditional late-nineteenth-century artifacts. We offer detailed guided tours through each room, with presentations specially catered depending on age level, general comprehension, and relevance. Tours run roughly forty-five minutes.
In our park, you can find a monument commemorating Harbour Grace’s important role in transatlantic aviation history. In the summer months, the flags of prominent Harbour Grace merchant firms and the solid black pirate flag of Peter Easton are flown from the poles next to the building. (The skull-and-crossbones flag was adopted by later pirates.) In the coming months, we’ll also be offering guided tours through the Heritage District of Harbour Grace, covering the history of Peter Easton; the Garrison House; the murder of Robert Crocker Bray; Ridley House & Office; John Munn and the mercantile fishery; the mysterious ‘Pirate’s Grave’ on Bennetts Lane; John Shannon Munn and the little-known story of cricket in the town; the infamous ‘Harbour Grace Affray’ of 1883; the Aero Tennis Club; St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral; the Immaculate Conception Church; the old Courthouse; and much more. As well, we’re in the process of planning an ‘Elfreda Pike Hike’ on the new trail system in Bears Cove. Check back soon for more scheduling info.