Since the earliest days, St. John's has been primarily a port and a fishing station. It is the administrative centre of the island and the chief commercial depot. The manufacturing industries include fish packing, processing and bi-products, shipbuilding and repairing, cordage, cooperage, woodworking, clothing, beverages, food products and many other lines for local consumption.
Apart from the export of the products of the sea, and some paper during the winter, the trade of St. John's is mostly one of imports. These include flour, fruit, sugar, tea, meats, tobacco, coal, gasoline, machinery and textiles. The forest products and minerals, which constitute the bulk of the exports of the island, are shipped chiefly from other ports. This, of course, is because the city, located on the Avalon peninsula, is more or less isolated from the main body of the island. This was not a handicap in the days when all traffic moved by sea but it is so now, when interior mines and forests are being developed.
Grand Falls is a "company town", begun in 1909 to house the employees of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company. This concern, established by the Northcliffe interests of London, controls 7,442 square miles of pulpwood forests in Newfoundland. Grand Falls was selected as the site of the mill because of the power possibilities of the river which at this point provides a "head" of 125 feet. Other points in its favour are its accessibility to the main line of the Newfoundland Railway and to ocean shipping a few miles away at Botwood. Another power site is found at Bishop's Falls where a subsidiary pulp mill is located. The pulp is pumped to the paper mill at Grand Falls through a pipeline eleven miles in length.
The Urban Landscape
The focal point is the mill, with its nearby wood piles, paper sheds and power house. This industrial section occupies a terrace to the north of the river gorge. On the slopes behind it, the town is built. The plan has been adapted to the site, the roads curve around the hills in response to the contours, while the highest land has been left in woods. To the east is the civic centre containing the post office, a small hotel and several shops while, at intervals, to the west stand four imposing churches. Other prominent buildings are the centrally located staff house, and the hospital located at the extreme west. There is no very marked zonation of residences, some fairly large houses are found near the staff house and also at the base of the wooded ridge, smaller workmen's homes are located near the mill and also some distance away to the north. A terrace, to the northeast of the civic centre, is mainly occupied by houses of an intermediate type. Most of the houses are built of wood, but there are buildings of stone, brick and concrete. The town has its own water and electric system. The whole urban area occupies about one-half square mile of land.