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Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada


When entering the community of Bonavista today, one sees a small and tranquil town in outport Newfoundland. For this reason, it is difficult to imagine that just one generation ago, this quiet town was a centre for international trade - touching economies world wide.

The Ryan Premises were the headquaters of James Ryan Ltd. The waterfront property of James Ryan Ltd. was acquired in 1869 and the Firm was extensively involved in the inshore fishery, general merchandising and other economic pursuits typical of large-scale outport merchants throughout Newfoundland. Along with his brothers, James Ryan created an economic empire in Bonavista based on the Labrador and Newfoundland inshore fisheries.

James Ryan Ltd. exported fish to Portugal, Spain, Italy and the West Indies. In the 19th century, most Newfoundland salt fish, including Ryan's, was carried direct to market by a large fleet of schooners, which filled Bonavista's small harbour. The Ryan Premises were a significant part of a regional enterprise and a significant presence in the lives of the people who not only lived in the region, but also abroad.

In 1952, James Ryan Ltd. withdrew from the fishery when Newfoundland's traditional salt fish sector collapsed due to rapidly developing fresh and fresh-frozen sectors. The firm continued as a wholesale and retail distributor, selling everything from groceries to furniture, before finally closing its doors in 1978.

In 1997, Parks Canada re-opened its doors - this time to commemorate the East Coast Fishery. The site's association with many aspects of the East Coast fishing industry, the quality of the surviving physical resources and the location within the community of Bonavista which is a fishing community noted for the richness of fisheries related resources, make this site a special and unique place.

For a more complete history of the site, please feel free to contact us .