The Rorke Store is a gable-roofed wooden building located on Water Street in Carbonear, NL. Built in the 1870s, this building, together with Rorke’s Stone Jug across the road, is an impressive and rare example of a merchant’s premises in Newfoundland. The designation is confined to the footprint of the property.
Statement of Significance
Formal Recognition Type
Registered Heritage Structure
The Rorke Store was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988 because of its historic and aesthetic value.
John Rorke, who owned one of the most successful business firms in Newfoundland in the 19th century, was born in Ireland in 1807 and came to Newfoundland at age 17 to work as a clerk for a local firm run by his uncle. By age 23 he started his own business and married Mary Tocque, daughter of another prominent local merchant. He was heavily involved in the Labrador “stationer” fishery and dealt in the fishery, sealing, ship building and mercantile businesses, along with international commercial trade with the West Indies and Europe. Between 1839 and 1920, the Rorke firm had 48 ships registered ranging from 50 to 150 tons. John Rorke was influential in constructing the railway between St. John’s and Hall’s Bay. Rorke represented the District of Carbonear in the House of Assembly for 14 years, and in 1879 became a member of the Executive Council. On his retirement he had the title “Honourable” conferred upon him by Queen Victoria. John Rorke died in 1896 and the business passed to his sons. The Rorke firm continued to be run by various members of the family until the 1970s, when it finally closed after 142 years.
The Rorke Store was known locally as the “Molasses Store” because it was where people could fill their molasses kegs. The Rorkes also supplied the community with coal, cement, lime, iron, glass, paint, flour, beef, and pork, and the top floor was a sail maker’s loft. Constructed entirely of wood timber, this building is a rare sight in Newfoundland today. The mortise-and-tenon jointing of massive timbers with knee braces are reflective of a construction style not commonly seen anymore, with only a handful still standing in the province. Also intact is the original slate roofing, significant because it shows the durability of this now scarcely used material. Using a lighter colour slate on part of the roof, the sign “John Rorke & Sons” is uniquely visible.
The Rorke Store is positioned directly across from Rorke’s Stone Jug, which is also a Registered Heritage Structure. This building served as the Rorke’s residence during the time that they worked at the Rorke Store, with the main floor being used to sell dry goods and the third floor being used by apprentices and servants. Together the two buildings comprise the entire Rorke property, minus the East Store which blew down in 1999. Originally, the two store houses were connected by a second storey bridge and a large wooden wharf extended into the harbour.
Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “Carbonear – Rorke Store – FPT 1508”
Character Defining Elements
All original features which relate to the age and style of the building including:
-number of storeys;
-mid pitch gable roof;
-slate roof with signage;
-wooden frame construction;
-timbers with mortise-and-tenon jointing;
-narrow wooden clapboard cladding;
-wooden corner boards;
-simplicity of exterior decoration and detail;
-wooden window size, style, trim and placement;
-size, style, trim and placement of original wooden doors;
-rubble stone foundation;
-dimension, location and orientation of building, and;
-location in respect to Rorke’s Stone Jug.
Location and History
Town of Carbonear
Water Street West
1870 - 1917
Rectangular Short Façade