Wakeham Sawmill was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural values. Originally constructed as a fishing stage in the outport of Petite Forte by John Wakeham in 1912, the building was partially dismantled and transported onboard a schooner across Placentia Bay in 1942. It was reassembled at its current location in Placentia, where it housed a carpentry business operated by brothers Cyril and Leonard Wakeham.
The aesthetic value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its appearance as a vernacular, painted, wooden fisheries building exhibiting features of that form, as well as features reflecting its adaptive reuse as a carpentry business with an on-site sawmill. Modifications towards the building’s second function included the addition of four windows on the upper south side; inserting a trap door in the floor for disposing of sawdust; replacing two second storey windows with a double door; and erecting steps to the new door. (The steps were removed in the 1980s.) The interior of the building retains its sawmill infrastructure (benches, machinery, hardware), as well as unfinished surfaces including exposed beams, rafters, timber walls and wood floors.
The “shored up” post and beam fishing stage foundation was maintained, and was well suited to the building’s use as a sawmill. At the time that Wakeham Sawmill was erected in Placentia, Orcan River flowed under the building such that logs could float from neighbouring Southeast to the sawmill. The boundaries of Orcan River have since been altered to protect low-lying Placentia, so Wakeham Sawmill now stands on dry land.
Part of the cultural value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its status as a traditional fishing stage adaptively reused. Wakeham Sawmill also played a significant role in the local economy at its current location, as a site for processing a natural resource for commercial purpose, producing wood products for the local market. Wood was cut downstairs, while the second floor was used for making doors, windows, furniture, caskets, boats and other wood products. Wood from the mill was also used in the renovation and construction of other buildings in the area, both commercial and domestic, and by local boatbuilders.
Wakeham Sawmill also has notable community level status as a familiar landmark, and as a reminder of the former course of Orcan River. Furthermore, Wakeham Sawmill is the only building of its type remaining in Placentia proper.
Source: Historic Places