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Spaces: The Fogo Island Inn is the Rock’s most stylish place to take a crash course in local history

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(photo: Alex Fradkin)

Despite its remote location along Iceberg Alley, on the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Fogo Island Inn has become a hot international destination for affluent travellers desiring a little modernity with their rustic ocean views. Its cozy library is also one of the best places to take a crash course in Newfoundland history and culture.

Designed by architect Todd Saunders, the 29-room inn is inspired by outport fishing shacks, looming over the rocky coast like a ship on stilts. The hotel is the brainchild of Fogo Island resident Zita Cobb, a millionaire who made her fortune as a top exec at JDS Uniphase in California before returning home to launch the Shorefast Foundation. Cobb’s charity promotes the island’s local culture and eco­nomy, which had suffered since the 1990s collapse of the fishing industry. As part of her efforts, in 2013 Cobb developed the luxury inn, gallery, and restaurant, along with a residency program for artists and an online furnishings shop.

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(photo: Alex Fradkin)

The connection between the hotel and Newfoundland publishing began well before the first stilt even entered the granite shoreline. From the beginning, design plans included a heritage library of locally published books, which would be open to the public. The pale-green paint on its shelves is an exact match of the colour found in the Fishermen’s Union general stores that used to have a ubiquitous presence across the province (inn employees refer to the colour as F.U. Green).

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(photo: Paddy Barry)

In 2008, former Memorial University president Leslie Harris – whose wife was born in Fogo – bequeathed his personal books to Shorefast. The collection, which features titles on Newfoundland history, commerce, poetry, and fiction, was put into storage until the inn’s opening. Today, hundreds of books – including many first editions and a set of encyclopedias formerly belonging to controversial politician Joey Smallwood – sit alongside donations from local presses such as Harry Cuff Publications and Breakwater Books. According to Fogo Island Inn spokesperson Paddy Barry, “If you’re a fan of Newfoundland history, there’s not a wasted book there.”