Growing Great Places Together

Town of Come By Chance, Newfoundland & Labrador - 2024 Atlantic Participant

The Town of Come by Chance is located at the head of Placentia Bay on the Isthmus of Avalon. Originally called Passage Harbour by John Guy in 1612, the name “Comby Chance” was first recorded in 1706, perhaps in reference to the discovery of the harbour by chance. Despite the presence of a telegraph station in the early 1900s, the settlement was almost deserted by the late 1930s. It was then chosen as the site of a cottage hospital (photo) because of its central location in the Trinity Bay-Placentia Bay area (Pitt, 2016). 

Developed from the recommendations of the 1930 Royal Commission of Health Care and Public Charities, the cottage hospital system was loosely modeled after the system of health care in rural Scotland, where the population was similarly scattered and sometimes isolated. In such conditions, small hospitals located strategically around the coast were found to be the best option for providing medical care (

From 1936 to 1954, nineteen cottage hospitals were opened around Newfoundland. In most cases the Commission provided funding for their construction, but often not enough to cover the total cost. Local residents were expected to contribute by donating building material, labour, and even land. The first group of cottage hospitals opened in 1936, including Come By Chance Cottage Hospital. Cottage hospitals were staffed by at least one doctor, several nurses and various support staff. There were small male and female wards totalling between 12 to 40 inpatient beds, in addition to one or two private/isolation rooms. Most of the cottage hospitals had X-ray machines. Relatively common surgeries such as appendectomies and tonsillectomies were routinely performed, but more serious surgeries were sent to larger hospitals in St. John’s or Corner Brook. Maternity care was a major focus of the cottage hospitals, and most were equipped with nurseries and incubators. The hospitals also acted as pharmacies, dispensing medication ( 

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the cottage hospitals were gradually replaced by more modern and centralized medical facilities, made more accessible because of improved transportation. Although they are now mostly gone, the cottage hospitals provided an unprecedented level of medical service to the people of Newfoundland, and became important community institutions. The Come by Chance Cottage Hospital closed in 1986 and medical care was taken over by the Dr. G. B. Cross Regional Health Centre in Clarenville ( The original hospital portion of the building was torn down the same year but a newer addition still stands today and serves as the town’s Municipal Building, housing the town office, post office, Eastern Health Clinic and other services. 

Come by Chance gained national notoriety in the early 1970s with the building of a 16,000 cubic meter per day oil refinery. The $120-million petroleum complex included two 95 000 m3 crude-oil storage tanks, a railway spur track, a deep-water oil terminal, and the refinery itself, which produced its first oil in December 1973. However, after some malfunctions and the loss of its feedstock supply, the refinery went into receivership in 1976. The idle refinery was sold in July 1980 to Petro-Canada, which sold it for $1 to Newfoundland Energy Ltd. in 1986. The United States company, which was based out of Bermuda, reopened the refinery in August 1987 (Pitt, 2016). The refinery has changed ownership several times in the last two decades and is currently operating as Braya Renewable Fuels. The refinery has been retrofitted to produce hydrogen and with the recent moratorium on Wind energy lifted in Newfoundland, there is great potential in this area to see even more Green energy projects stationed here. Braya continues to be a major employer in the Come By Chance area.  

The Come By Chance area is dense with industry. In addition to the oil refinery, the Newfoundland Transshipment Terminal is located within the municipal boundaries of both Come By Chance and nearby Arnold’s Cove. The terminal has six 500,000 barrel storage tanks utilized by the Newfoundland offshore oil producers. Crude is shipped to the terminal by dedicated shuttle tankers and stored in the tanks until it is ready to be shipped to market by second leg tankers. The terminal has been in operation since 1998 and is currently servicing 4 offshore oil fields. Three kilometres east of Come By Chance along the TCH is the entrance to the Bull Arm Fabrication Site. Owned by Nalcor, the province’s energy corporation, Bull Arm is the largest fabrication site in Atlantic Canada with a dry dock area, deep water site and module hall. Bull Arm has been home to two mega construction projects – the Hibernia gravity base structure (GBS) and topsides components in the early 1990s and more recently to the Hebron GBS and living quarters from 2011-2017. Other smaller works were also undertaken by Terra Nova and White Rose operators over the years. 

The Town of Come By Chance also features a few outside attractions to visit. We get several visitors to our local estuary, locally know as “the Gut”, where people can enjoy our licenced salmon river or have a cookout in the provided fire pits. There is also our Cleary Walking Trail, which features viewing platforms in 2 locations along the trail. One platform overlooks the Gut area and the other overlooks Placentia Bay. Before venturing into the Cleary walking trail, you can visit our War Memorial, highlighting residents who served with the miliary as far back as the First World War. 

Residents of Come By Chance recently formed a Heritage Committee to capture, promote and celebrate our rich history and heritage.