By Frances Phelps
One of the famous, but more or less non-historic landmarks of Niagara is the old "Whale Inn" or "Elliot House," at the foot of King St., Niagara.
Built in 1835 by Walter Elliot, the builder being James Kennedy, it remained in the Elliot family for well over 100 years. As late as 1935 it was owned by the Misses Adelaide and Jane Elliot who were the granddaughters of Walter Elliot, and who maintained a very select summer boarding house. Due to the fine reputation of the Misses Elliot and the outstanding location on the water front, it was considered quite a feat to be able to secure accommodation at the "Elliott House." After the Misses Elliot, I believe distant relatives occupied the house for a while.
When trying to ascertain the reason for the two names "Whale Inn" and "Elliot House," one rather quaint answer was received. "To the fishermen it was known as the Whale Inn," but by the gentry it was always referred to as the "Elliot House."
A reference to the Elliot House may be found in Janet Carnochan's "History of Niagara," as follows "In the maps of the town may be seen marked the engineers' quarters where the Queens' Royal stands (this should now read 'stood' as there no, longer is a 'Queens Royal')." The Elliot House was built in 1838. At the foot of the street was the Guard House, close to the water, and right in the middle of the street. Opposite the Elliot House, was the Gleaner Printing Office of Andrew Heron.
Reading on pages 107-8 of the same book, we learn "At a meeting of the land board in 1791, the town limits were enlarged and permission given to build a public house at the east end of the town next the river and Mason's lodge next it."
It is possible this inn was the Whale Inn and was burned during the conflagration of 1813, and the present Elliot House built on the site. To bear this out is the fact that there are early pictures showing the public house, the Guard House, and the third building, apparently the Mason's lodge. Perhaps the best of the old pictures can be seen on page 13 of the book published by the Lincoln County Council on the occasion of the County Centennial in 1956.
In this picture is shown the Guard House, or block house as it is sometimes known, in the centre, the old inn on one side and on the other side apparently the Mason's hall.
From Florence LeDoux's "Sketches of Niagara" we learn that "this colonial inn built at the old landing did a great business in 1838. It served many people and parts of the old bar may be seen today in the dining room. The foundation of the old Block House may be seen under the sand in front of this inn close to the water. The old Block House was used for a landing place in 1813."
Mr. and Mrs. Jean Oppenheimer of Buffalo, purchased this property a few years ago for their summer home in Niagara and have done a remarkably fine job of restoring it to its original 'beauty. The old furniture has been painstakingly and beautifully restored by the very talented Carl Banke of Niagara, and although this is no longer an inn, but a private home, the beautiful bar may still be seen in all its original beauty.