BOW: post from the field #5: October 14, 2015

BOW: post from the field #5: October 14, 2015

| from St. John’s, discovering the ghost of rivers

Here in Newfoundland, we ask ourselves, “what comment can we effectively make about water and people’s relationship to water on a island where people have lived relied so closely on water for survival and culture for generations?”. Anne has the idea to investigate hidden and historic waters of St. John’s after learning that some of the steeply hilled downtown streets were originally rivers flowing into the harbour. Discussion with residents and research at the provincial archives showed us that Prescott Street used to Keen’s Brook. Early settlers in St. John’s built their homes along Keen’s Brook (and the other rivers), threw their waste into the river, and eventually transformed the river into a sewer housed beneath stone and pavement. Standing at the top of Prescott at Rawling’s Cross, I can easily imagine the fast waters of the brook; I can almost hear her silenced gushing sound.

Prescott Street is compelling for other reasons. The new fence surrounding the harbour skirt is visible from almost all points along the street. Built for “security and safety” reasons a few years ago in spite of much protest from St. John’s residents, this tall black fence cuts off the working harbour from the people who have enjoyed accessing its’ activities for centuries. We begin to imagine making a physical statement against the fence. We begin to imagine rolling down the steep hill of Prescott to meet the barrier fence between the ghost of Keen’s Brook, us, and the ocean beyond it.

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