Newfoundland’s Mother In Law DoorNewfoundlanders are known for their great sense of humor and irony. I also believe the lot of them ‘is born lawyers’ at heart. Take for instance this photo below.
Looks like an ordinary house yet there is something a bit odd, yes? Ah- you notice something is off? What? Right you are then – there’s a 2nd story front door…but the steps are missing!
Now look again. How high do you think it ‘tis from the ground? You’re right! It is about 10 ft. A long way to fall if you are little tipsy in the dark and you open the front door expecting stairs, only to step off for a little fresh air. You’ll be getting more than that I dare say.
Why install a front door two stories up with no stairs?
When I first saw this peculiar sight traveling around Newfoundland I thought oh well, maybe it’s an unfinished house or perhaps a cultural norm? It seemed odd but what does a mainlander know? But there were so many of Newfoundland homes with “mother in law doors” as they are affectionately known here on the ‘rock’!
Finally, a business friend of mine Tony Hutchcroft, a man of many talents, one of them being a fantastic singer and writer suggested this topic for my blog. Tony is also a Newfoundlander and familiar with the story behind the “mother in law door”.
In early Newfoundland, before Confederation, most rural homes were built with only one door, which was usually in the back of the house and led into the mudroom just off the kitchen…the kitchen being the one room in the home that was heated, usually by a wood stove.
After Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, Ottawa regulated that for fire safety reasons all homes must have both a front and back door.
Now keep in mind that most Newfoundland homes were built by the people who live in them. They were usually small, no more than what was needed (or what could be heated by a single wood stove) so a front door was just an unnecessary added expense that would never get used anyway.
Newfoundlanders, being the law-abiding souls that they are, felt obligated to meet all the requirements of this new law but government regulations said nothing about having to install stairs!
So, as a defiant Newfoundlander might say, “You asked for a door? …there’s your damn door ‘bye, you didn’t say nottin’ bout no damn stairs”.
Over time, as usually happens…stories are told and embellished with a little Newfoundland humor…and so the ‘mother in law door’ was born.
The concept is simple. If you didn’t like your mother in law, then this is the door she needs to use when she visits. If she somehow slips in the back door, then the ‘mother in law door’ is the one you show her to…to get her out of the house!
We didn’t put ‘mother in law doors’ on our luxury Newfoundland Cottages here in Bonavista. All mother-in-laws are welcome.
Only Made in Newfoundland!