One of the earliest courthouses built in Ontario, what is now the Elgin County Courthouse has been a St. Thomas landmark for more than 150 years.
Construction on the new courthouse, which boasts a modern addition connecting the restored heritage courthouse with the former land registry office. The modern courthouse complex with state-of-the-art technology, security, energy efficiency, and barrier-free accessibility was officially opened in March.
The courthouse is a prominent example of the combined courthouse, jail and county buildings erected by counties across Canada West before Confederation. At the time, these complexes were a requirement to achieve full county status.
Built in 1852-53 by architect John Turner, the original courthouse was a three-storey, domed Palladian-style building constructed of stone and yellow brick. Gutted by fire in 1898, the courthouse was rebuilt and expanded the following year with the addition of flanking wings, entrance porches, a copper roofed dome and new interior finishes.
The former land registry office, originally built in 1874 is the new home of the Elgin County Law Association in the restored and expanded courthouse.
Many of the heritage features of the courthouse, including its east, north, and west elevations, dome and copper roof, and masonry and sculptural detailing, were conserved and restored. The interiors of the historic buildings have been extensively refurbished while retaining most of their exterior facades
On March 18, a steel cylinder was be placed in the historic cornerstone of the courthouse. Inside it are mementos from the City of St. Thomas, Elgin County, and the local justice community. The key to the time capsule will lie next to it, to be used to open the capsule 88 years from now, in 2102.
More details on the courthouse’s history and the time capsule are here.
This is another in our occasional photographic series of the courthouses of Canada. If you have a photo and story of the courthouse in your city or town that you’d like to share, e-mail it to editor Gail J. Cohen.