Description of Historic Place
Built in approximately 1796, the Whirlpool House is an exceptional example of early lath and plaster construction common in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and has a thick white stucco exterior with a medium gable roof. This one-and-a-half storey rectangular house is located on its original farmland site at 3011 Portage Road at the west side of Churches Lane.
The property is designated for its heritage value under By-law 78-27 by the City of Niagara Falls.
The Whirlpool House is in close proximity to other historic sites designated for their heritage value near or along Portage Road. Portage Road was a vital transportation route during the War of 1812 and crucial to the development and settlement of the Niagara Peninsula.
After immigrating to Canada from New Jersey around 1796, Andrew Rorback built the Whirlpool House , so named for the whirlpool located to the southeast of the house. Rorback kept a store and conducted a saddlery business at the house, and later it became one of the best known inns on the historic Portage Road, known as Rorback's Tavern. In addition, Andrew Rorback was an adjutant of the second Regiment of the Lincoln Militia from 1813-1814 and commanded the regiment with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel from 1837-1838. After becoming Commissioner of the Court of Requests in 1837 and postmaster in 1842, Rorback died in 1843. Whirlpool house was acquired by James Oswald following his death, and the house became known as Whirlpool Inn. The house's pre-19th century construction makes it one of the oldest houses in the City of Niagara Falls.
Whirlpool House is one of very few early lath and plaster structures still in existence. This type of construction was common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and gives a layered effect when the wall is exposed. Also significant to its heritage value is the existence of the roughly installed barrel vault ceiling with oak beams on the first floor, which was once the ceiling to the ballroom. The rectangular house originally had eleven rooms in total, and the entire first floor consisted of activity spaces, with the exception of one bedroom. The layout has since changed due to renovations. The house has a medium gable roof with two lean-to additions for the kitchen and greenhouse areas. At one point in time, the house boasted a long wooden verandah along the east façade, which has since been removed. Despite having many renovations in the 1940's, the 18th century character of the house has been well-preserved, making this a truly unique structure in the City of Niagara Falls.
Due to its location on Portage Road, the Whirlpool House was passed by many travellers through the area, and functioned as a resting place for businessmen and other types of travellers. The building's ballroom was a popular place for social functions, and the house provided a venue for many political and business meetings, helping to develop the growing community of Stamford.
Sources: By-law No. 78-27, Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, 1978; Whirlpool House Designation Report, Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, 1978.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of Whirlpool House include its:
- lath and plaster materials used in the construction of the house
- layered effect of the lath and plaster construction underneath the exterior coat
- gable roof wooden framework
- gable type dormers above the kitchen with a shingle finish on the sides
- cornice and fascia eaves
- two single stacked white brick chimneys standing at each gable end
- off-centred front entrance, with a segmented pediment above the entrance and a wide wood trim surround
- five large windows divided by the entrance
- window north of the present entrance, formerly an entrance to the bar of the Inn
- siting of the building on a corner lot, making the building easily accessible for travellers
- location along Portage Road, a vital transportation link for the Niagara Peninsula
- proximity to other heritage properties in the surrounding area