Description of Historic Place
Built in 1860 of magnificent stone and brick, Roselawn is situated in a lovely garden setting along Port Colborne's Fielden Avenue and displays many characteristics typical of the Second Empire style. This historic three-storey dwelling has served a number of residential, social and cultural purposes and is associated with a number of Port Colborne's most prominent families.
It has been designated for its heritage value by Port Colborne By-law 2929/109/93.
Spatially connected to the rest of the city by its central location on a large amount of land, Roselawn became a landmark in Lewis Carter's time and has remained one as Port Colborne grew up around it. The property has elegant gardens, period iron fencing and an interesting array of trees, all elements, which add to the overall ambience of the site.
The building is also one of numerous heritage properties owned by Lewis Carter, a wealthy man and public benefactor of prodigious generosity. Recognized as a centerpiece for Port Colborne, Roselawn has hosted many dignitaries including Premiers, Prime Ministers, Lieutenant Governors and Governors-General and continues to provide a welcoming atmosphere for social and cultural activities.
Roselawn was built in 1860 by Levi Cornwall, a local merchant and Methodist. Cornwall was a member of the first municipal council (1850) in the former Township of Humberstone. He was also one of the Building Commissioners who oversaw construction of Humberstone Township Hall in 1852.
Roselawn was sold in 1879 to Lewis Carter who added more acreage and remodelled the house to the Second Empire style, making Roselawn the centerpiece of an 84 acre farm, which at the time was located just outside the village limits of Port Colborne. The Carters were some of the earliest settlers in Port Colborne and Lewis Carter is recorded as starting Port Colborne's first store in a brick building he had built on West Street in 1850. He was a member of Humberstone Township Council and was later appointed Justice of the Peace and postmaster of the Village of Port Colborne, holding the latter two offices for over thirty years.
In 1866 Carter was among the organizers and the first chairman of a company formed in Port Colborne to begin drilling for oil. Instead of oil, gas was discovered, which by the 1880s proved to be just as beneficial economically. Roselawn may have been the first building in Port Colborne completely fitted for gas lights.
The dwelling was later home to Carter's nephew, Charles Eugene Steele, who formed Sterling Gas, which operated in and around Roselawn until 1928. It was Sterling Gas that supplied Port Colborne with gas for its first street lights. Steele was elected reeve of Port Colborne and served as Mayor in the 1927-1928 term, during which he installed the town's first sanitary sewer and paved streets.
The building's unique architecture contributes to its recognition as a distinct landmark in Port Colborne. The only Second Empire house in the city, Roselawn displays many characteristics typical of this style, including its irregular massing, asymmetrical entrance, multiple bays, belcast mansard roof, ornately bracketed eaves and dormer with ornate trim. The buff brick used on the exterior is unusual for Port Colborne. Additions that have been made since its construction, such as the sunroom, are consistent with the original materials used on the house. Notable features of the front entry are the elaborate door on the east side with six lights of etched glass and the “rose” leaded glass window in the south wall. Interior features of particular interest include the detailed woodwork, decorative plaster work, ornate glass and the fireplace.
Sources: Planning Department Report No. 93-43, Planning and Development Services, City of Port Colborne, 1993; “About Roselawn”, Roselawn Centre, 2007.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of Roselawn include its:
- irregular massing
- asymmetrical entrance and multiple bays
- belcast mansard roof
- ornately bracketed eaves and dormer with ornate trim
- buff brick unusual for Port Colborne
- exterior brackets on sunroom which are similar to those of original house
- elaborate main entrance door and trim
- six lights of etched glass and “rose” leaded glass window in the south hall
- woodwork of original house
- decorative plaster work in double parlour
- bevelled, stained, etched and leaded glass in the original house and additions
- fireplace in the double parlour
- tile and fixtures of bathroom on second floor
- iron fence
- tall tower with convex mansard roof, iron cresting and flag pole
- foundation made from coursed rubble with a raised square ribbon mortar joint
- gardens to the east and south of original house
- several rare trees, including: Cryptomeria (a Japanese species found rarely in Canada), Colorado Blue Spruce, Black Walnut, Copper Beech, European Linden, Gingko Biloba