BUILDERS: Saltbox vacation

Rental properties combine outport heritage with modern luxuries

Karen Wells
Published on April 22, 2015

Travel to almost any community in Newfoundland and you will see some version of a saltbox house.

With their distinctive clapboard and quaint style, these houses are a glimpse back in time to a once popular style of home construction.

The Old Salt Box Co. is one of the companies to have identified a market for travellers who want to enjoy the heritage of these homes while also having all the modern comforts that you’d expect from a vacation home.

With six locations in the Kittiwake coastal region in Fogo Island, Twillingate and New World Island, The Old Salt Box Co. is expanding to include properties in Greenspond and Musgrave Harbour.

Company owner/operators Janet Denstedt and Richard Wharton first visited Newfoundland from Ontario in 2007. Over the next three years they came back and rented vacation properties.

“The connection was about the people and the beauty,” Denstedt said.

“I felt it was almost like going back in time — the attitude of people being friendly. I felt like I was a kid again, like I could walk the streets.”

They decided to try and find a saltbox house to purchase — something that came with its own set of challenges, as not many of these properties were listed on the real estate markets.

It was through word of mouth  that they were led to the first property they purchased on Fogo Island in Joe Batt’s Arm.

“As time went by we got to know people on the island and they kept saying if I had known you wanted a house my cousin is selling his — all these offers came out of the woodwork,” Denstedt said.

They had enjoyed the experience of renovating their own house so they seriously considered purchasing others with the purpose of appealing to tourists.

“We saw a need at that time for accommodations on Fogo Island because we had a hard time finding something at the time,” she said.

Since then the couple has purchased and renovated — with the assistance of local contractors — six properties, each named after a special woman in their lives. In the case of Aunt Glady’s on Fogo Island, it was named after the woman they purchased the home from.

The renovations have stayed true to the houses’ original frames, with  modern touches inside to open up the space to make them feel airy. They have large windows to take in ocean views.

The Old Salt Box Co. clientele numbers from last season showed that 35 per cent of visitors came from Ontario, 36 per cent from Newfoundland and the remaining 30 per cent from other parts of Canada, the United States and Europe.

“This year alone we have three people coming from Ireland who have booked already,” Denstedt said.

She said the new direct flight option from Dublin to St. John’s is attracting visitors. In fact, she has friends coming from Holland who are flying to Dublin and then on to St. John’s.

Denstedt gives kudos to the provincial government, saying they’re doing a great job promoting tourism and providing support to tourism operators.

“I think they are very well focused on promoting tourism,” she said.