Historic Rodman Hall

Historic Rodman Hall

Preface

Rodman Hall was built by Thomas Rodman Merritt who was born in Mayville, New York in 1824 and died in St. Catharines in 1906. He was the fourth son of the Honourable William Hamilton Merritt (1793-1862) who built the first Welland Canal. He was the grandson of Thomas Merritt, a United Empire Loyalist, who fled from the United States in 1796, settled in the Niagara district, and bought land on the east bank of Twelve Mile Creek slightly south of the Queen Elizabeth Way.

In 1853 T. R. Merritt married Mary Benson. One story has it that when the newly-weds returned from their honeymoon, the bridegroom presented the bride with their new house — Rodman Hall. This pleasantly romantic tale may quite likely be true, despite theories that the first part of the house was not built until 1856 and the rest in 1863. The 1856 date derives from an article by "Junius," a free lance journalist, writing in 1856 for the "St. Catharines Journal." In his article Junius says Thomas R. Merritt was living on Yates Street and "was collecting much material for a splendid mansion on the other side of the canal."

Junius may not have told the whole story of the Merritt House "on the other side of the canal," perhaps because everybody in St. Catharines knew that although Thomas R. Merritt owned property on Yates Street, he and his wife lived in a relatively simple stone house, probably not then known as "Rodman Hall." This is now the west wing, designated on the City of St. Catharines tax records as a 1 ½ storey stone house, 48 feet by 26 feet, built in 1853.

The 38-acre property on which the house was built was bought by Merritt from Jacob Hainer, April 16, 1853. The deed is registered in the Niagara North Registry Office and covers Part Lot 2150, Plan 2, City of St. Catharines. If the tax collectors are correct, and they usually seem to know when and where there is taxable property, Merritt bought the land and built the west wing of his house the same year. Three years later he was planning an extension and was gathering materials as reported by "Junius." He fell heir to more materials when his younger brother, William Hamilton Merritt, Jr., died in 1860 with only foundations finished for the house he intended to build and call "Montebello," on the property which is now Montebello Park. These foundations now support the park pavilion. The unused construction materials were carted off to Thomas R. Merritt's property across the canal and used to complete construction of the 2 ½ storey, 42 feet by 56 feet east wing, in 1862.

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