CONSTRUCTION OF ST. THOMAS CONSOLIDATED COURTHOUSE OFFICIALLY BEGINS
ST. THOMAS – The Honourable Chris Bentley, Attorney General, and the Honourable Steve Peters, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, today celebrated the official groundbreaking for the new St. Thomas Consolidated Courthouse.
The new courthouse will be constructed on Wellington Street on the site of the historic Elgin County Courthouse, which will be incorporated into the new facility. The new building will consolidate St. Thomas’s two courts: the Superior Court of Justice, temporarily located on Silver Street, and the Ontario Court of Justice, located on Curtis Street.
The new courthouse will improve access to justice for the County of Elgin by increasing the number of available courtrooms and will provide better access and security while improving health and safety standards.
As a part of the government’s commitment to creating and promoting energy conservation in Ontario, the new facility will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Silver standard, which focuses on energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments and reduced greenhouse emissions. The building will feature barrier-free public access to courtrooms, infrared hearing assistance and barrier-free witness stands and jury boxes.
The courthouse construction project will provide a boost to the regional economy by creating and supporting hundreds of jobs. At the peak of construction, it is estimated that 120 workers will be on site daily. Construction of the new courthouse is expected to be completed in 2014.
Infrastructure Ontario is working with the Ministry of the Attorney General to develop the new courthouse. Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to delivering some of the province’s larger and more complex infrastructure renewal projects, on time and on budget; managing one of the largest real estate portfolios in Canada and providing real estate services, such as asset management, and property and land management; and providing the public sector and not-for-profit organizations with long-term financing to renew public infrastructure.
ST. THOMAS CONSOLIDATED COURTHOUSE PROJECT
The Elgin County Courthouse has been associated with the administration of justice in the County of Elgin for over a century and a half. One of the earliest pre-Confederation county courthouses constructed in Ontario, the building has been a St. Thomas landmark valued for its design, historical associations with the administration of justice and county government in Ontario, and links to provincially and nationally significant persons.
The courthouse is a prominent example of the combined courthouse, jail and county buildings erected by counties across Canada West between 1849 and 1867, when such facilities were a requirement to achieve full county status.
Elgin County Courthouse History
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 building housed the County of Elgin council chamber and offices until 1985 and was the siteof the county’s Superior Court until it was relocated in 2010 to allow for construction of the new St. Thomas Consolidated Courthouse.
Land Registry Office
The former Land Registry Office, originally built in 1874 (with additions in 1880 and 1909) is representative of the post-Confederation standardization of registry offices by the Province of Ontario. Plans and specifications for a standard registry office were prepared by Ontario’s Chief Architect’s Office (under Kivas Tully) and distributed to county councils. The standard plans incorporated architectural features designed to keep county land records safe by preventing fire and flood and discouraging theft. This one-storey, yellow-brick building with gabled wings, round-arched openings and barrel-vaulted interior spaces is among the earliest built to the 1868 standardized plan.
New Consolidated Courthouse
The historic courthouse and the land registry building will feature prominently in the newconsolidated courthouse. Their interiors will be extensively refurbished while retaining most of their exterior facades. Existing heritage features of the two buildings, including the copper roofed dome, original furniture and fittings, decorative plaster work, stained glass, wainscoting and window trim, will be preserved and incorporated in the new design
When the new courthouse opens in 2014, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in a 160- year tradition of justice administration in Elgin County.