February 23, 1889
Subscribers to the St. John’s newspaper, The Daily Colonist on February 23, 1889 read that a “Newfoundland Rhubarb pie” had been served at the Atlantic Hotel.
Why did a rhubarb pie make the news?
There was much conversation in the town about the pie, it appears that it may have been the first rhubarb grown and served in Newfoundland during the winter season. The reporter wrote:
“The vegetable was grown by Mr. J.T. Neville, at Rae Island farm and tastes as succulent and nutritious as if pulled in June. The stalks are quite large and can be seen under their glass covers by visitors to Mr. Neville’s place on the Waterford – Bridge road.”
Mr. & Mrs. Neville leased a fifty acre piece of property that encompassed the Waterford and Kilbride Rivers that they named Rae Island Farm. It was at the farm where they experimented with growing vegetables in a hot house. Rae Island Farm is known today as Bowring Park.
The Atlantic Hotel, located at 102 Water Street was the most prestigious hotel in the city at the time. It was opened in 1875 by J.W. Foran.
The newspaper article concluded:
“Fresh rhubarb in Newfoundland in January! What will our friends across the water say to this? Those friends who have always looked upon Newfoundland as being covered in ice and snow three fourths of the year will certainly be surprised.”
Recommended Reading: Sean Cadigan, “The Staple Model Reconsidered: The Case of Agricultural Policyn Northeast Newfoundland, 1785-1855”, Acadiensis, XXI, 2 (Spring 1992), pp. 48- 71.