Now known officially as Route 350 the Botwood Highway is over 90 years old, making it one of the oldest motor roads off of the Avalon.
We are lucky enough today to have around 10,000 kilometers of road that connect most of the communities in our province. There was a time not so long ago, that roads were few and far between. Back then people mostly traveled by boat or train. Most people lived in coastal communities, so marine travel was convenient. The handful of inland communities that existed were an archipelago linked narrow gauge steel rails Even to go from Grand Falls to Botwood required a ride on the old Botwood Railway, until the early 1920’s.
To be fair there probably wasn’t much of a need for a road between Grand Falls and Botwood during the first 15 years of the more interior town’s existence. There just weren’t that many cars and the towns were connected by rail. A few cars started to appear after the First World War, and those that owned them were fairly limited in where they could use them. Plus the rail line was a private one and ran on a fairly limited schedule as far as passengers were concerned.
I will answer two questions right off the bat. Construction of the Botwood Road started on August 15th, 1921 on the corner of Monchy Road and Station Road. Basically right across the road from Mercer’s/Mel’s/Kelly’s Corner. So this would be originally where Station Road ended and Botwood Road began.
Construction was carried out by J. Goodyear and Sons under contract from the Newfoundland Government. It was one of the first major road building projects to be undertaken off of the Avalon Penninsula. The supervisor was Mr. Kenneth Goodyear.[i]
When preliminary work started there were 25 men on the job, by September 3 there were 80 men working on the project and it had advanced about one mile. It was reported that considerable blasting had to undertaken already and that two stone culverts had to have been built. Think of that next time you drive up Lincoln road towards the cemetery!
Reports of the road were favorable, especially when being compared with the Hall’s Bay line, which was under construction at the same time and was embroiled in a bit of a scandle and fiasco (the Goodyears were also involved on this road at some point as well) . The Botwood road was 22 feet across and ditched on both sides. It was capped with stone and “good hard clay.”
I couldn’t find much else on the progress of the road. In 1923 four miles were under construction between Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls and by 1925 it was reported that a good motor road was in place between Grand Falls and Botwood.[iv] The route in total was about twenty miles most all of which was constructed by the Goodyears.
During the early stages of construction it was figured that houses would start springing up all along the route. They did. In the 1920’s and 30’s houses were built along the portion of the road through the company town, it also connected the new housing developments around Junction Road. Around the same time some families started to build outside of Company limits on the Botwood Highway in the area now known as Grenfell Heights.
In those early days there were a number of farms along the Botwood Highway, some of which stretched back towards the Newfoundland Railway line. After World War Two there was some talk of the area becoming a “land settlement” where returned veterans would be given land to farm, similar to what was done at Markland, Browns Arm, Cormack and Winterland. It is not known if or on what scale any of this was done. Between Bishop’s Falls and Botwood, houses were also built at an area known as 13 mile crossing. in 1954 American born Canadian War Veteran Frank”Jiggs” Borland started a farm on the Botwood Highway between Bishop’s Falls and Botwood, on which he and his family raised a variety of livestock over the years. The farm is still there.
In 1929 it was decided to connect the Botwood Road to Point Leamington and work was started on improving an old cart path that existed between the two communities. This road connection enabled fresh farm produce and fish from the Point Leamington area better access to stores in Botwood, Bishop’s Falls, Grand Falls and Windsor. .As of writing I am unable to get the exact year that the main stretch of the Botwood Highway was paved. I do know a contract to rebuild the road was awarded to Goodyear’s in 1935. I can say that it was paved by the early 1950’s, so it was likely paved sometime in the 1940’s.
As mentioned before, there was a road between Halls Bay and Badger. This had existed as far back as 1895 as the completion of a “road” connecting Halls Bay to the Railway at Badger on the Exploits River was reported. This was no more than a trail and steps were undertaken to improve it in the 1920’s. This was beneficial to the AND Company because it helped open up timber areas and made it possible to supply their camps in the area by road. The road between Grand Falls and Badger was completed in the mid 1930’s. At that time it was possible to drive from Point Leamington to Halls Bay, although it probably would have been much quicker to take a boat.
People stated to build houses along the Botwood Highway between Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls. Not only were there houses, there were farms, a couple of hotels (the Montrose was one of them) and a couple of take outs (Cyril’s/Harve’s and I believe another chip van at some point, plus Lingard’s in Bishop’s Falls) on that starch of road. Eventually the area known as Botwood Highway became known as Grenfell Heights and even in the 1970’s it was not actually part of Grand Falls or Windsor. The earliest listing for the name change to Grenfell Heights I could find was from 1963. I am not sure of when the town limits of Grand Falls came to include most of the area and there is an entry for Grenfell Heights as a separate community in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland.
The “Old” Botwood Highway ceased to be the Highway in the 1960’s when the Trans Canada went through the area. The new route was straighter and, for the most part did not follow the old road. The “low” road connection between Grand Falls and Bishop’s Falls was cut. on the western end of Grenfell Heights extension you can still see the characteristic red pavement of the old Botwood Highway.
[i] Evening Telegram September, 1921
[iii] Evening Telegram July 1923
[iv] Evening Telegram