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Callahan family, a crucial part of Broadway’s history, planning a reunion for Corner Brook’s Come Home Year

The Callahan family enjoying a meal at their old home on Concord Avenue in Corner Brook.
The Callahan family enjoying a meal at their old home on Concord Avenue in Corner Brook. - Contributed

CORNER BROOK

For the longest time, the Callahan’s house at 28 Broadway in Corner Brook really stood out.

It was a fairly regular-looking house — white with two storeys and set back a little way from the road.

The thing that made it unique was that it was a family residence peculiarly nestled in amongst an otherwise bustling business district.

Before it was demolished in 2007, the home was surrounded by a bar and The Palace Theatre on one side, an office supply outlet on the other and the big Local 64 union hall to the rear.

Directly across the street, on the western side of Broadway, was a photography business and more commercial neighbours.

The home is long gone. The new union hall that replaced the old Local 64 now stands at the location.

When Corner Brook holds its Come Home Year celebration this summer, the spot will get a special commemorative visit by one small group. It’s not an official part of the municipal celebration, but it will be the Callahan family’s own little tribute to their past.

The history

Most of the land around Broadway in Corner Brook was once owned by Joseph O’Callaghan. He had emigrated to the island of Newfoundland from East Cork, Ireland, in 1856.

As the story goes, according to great-granddaughter Lucine Toomey, O’Callaghan had been given a sum of money from the sale of some of the land his family owned in Ireland, so he could set off to pursue his dreams in the New England area.

He only made it as far as St. John’s and was subsequently granted 150 acres of land in the area now known as Corner Brook.

That land took in much of what would become the Broadway area.

Toomey, who is 80 and lives in Halifax, said some of the land was expropriated for the wood yard of the new paper mill that opened in 1925. She said her grandfather, O’Callaghan’s son William Callahan, was reportedly offered $25,000 for the land, but he refused to take it.

“He wasn’t willing to give that land up and would never take the money for it,” said Toomey.

She is of the understanding the $25,000 sat in a bank account for the next quarter century until it was taken back.

That would be consistent with reports of what would allegedly happen years later.

The family, which shortened its name to Callahan after Joseph O’Callaghan’s arrival, sold off parcels of land to some of the merchants setting up shop as the mill town grew. Toomey said, decades later, the family was offered a more than generous sum of money for the property at 28 Broadway so it could be developed into a commercial enterprise, but again it was rejected by William Callahan.

“I was told he was offered $250,000 to go build elsewhere, but he didn’t want to move,” said Toomey.

Dan Faour, a well-known Corner Brook businessman who is now 93, used to operate his jewelry store across the street from the Callahan house. Toomey once worked for him when she was in high school in the 1950s.

Faour recalls the talk of the family being offered a great sum of money for the property, but refusing to budge.

His recollection was the Bank of Montreal had made the offer and it was probably more like $50,000 — still a lot of money for back then.

“It was a time when you could probably build a house of $3,000 or $4,000,” said Faour. “I remember thinking he was crazy for turning that kind of money down back then.”

Toomey said her grandfather’s property on Broadway gave the Callahan kids a front-row seat to life in Corner Brook in the 1950s.

“Saturday nights after work were exciting, standing in the front yard of 28 next door to The Palace and watching the world go by, which was the reason why my grandfather never sold his property even though he was offered a fortune for it in the day,” she said.

Toomey’s younger brother, Pat Callahan, is of the understanding someone wanted to build a hotel on the field here 28 Broadway once stood.

Whatever the sum was or the plans for the property, Toomey said some of William Callahan’s children often bemoaned the fact he never accepted the generous offer.

Pat thinks he knows why his grandfather staunchly held on to the property.

“Most of the land was just bundled out, a piece of land here for a cow or something and a piece here for whatever else, and there was no real accountability for it,” he said. “(28 Broadway) was the last holding of all the land he once owned and he didn’t want to give that up for anything.”

William Callahan died in his house in 1961.

His children lived in it afterwards. It was vacated in 1992 upon the death of his son, Gerald, and stood empty for 15 years before being razed to make way for the new Local 64.

All that is history now, albeit an interesting part of the storied past of downtown Corner Brook.

While they have fond memories of their grandparents’ house at 28 Broadway, Toomey and Pat Callahan and their 14 siblings actually grew up on Concord Avenue, a side road just across the street.

Pat Callahan lives there again now, having moved back to Corner Brook last May after 20 years living away in Western Canada.

When the Callahans get together this summer, they will all be staying in the Concord Avenue area. They plan to take in some of the community events planned for the Come Home Year in Corner Brook, but don’t have a big lot planned for themselves other than to enjoy one another’s company again.

There will be at least one family event, though, for sure.

“We will be doing a pilgrimage from Concord over to what’s left of 28 Broadway at some point,” said Toomey.

gary.kean@thewesternstar.com

Twitter: WS_GaryKean

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