Former Paris Town Hall National Historic Site of Canada

Paris, Ontario
Façade and north elevation on Church street (© Courtesy of the County of Brant Public Library | Gracieuseté de la bibliothèque publique du compté de Brant / 2016B006.342)
Front and side view of the building
(© Courtesy of the County of Brant Public Library | Gracieuseté de la bibliothèque publique du compté de Brant / 2016B006.342)
Address : 13 Burwell Street, Paris, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 2020-07-23
  • 1854 to 1904 (Significant)
  • 1854 to 1854 (Established)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • John Maxwell  (Architect)
Other Name(s):
  • Former Paris Town Hall  (Designation Name)
  • Bawcutt Centre  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 2019-019

Description of Historic Place

The Former Paris Town Hall National Historic Site of Canada is a two-and-a-half-storey rectangular building covered in brick with stone inserts. It features a side tower, which originally housed a bell, angled buttresses, which once had small turrets, and a combination of Gothic-Revival-style pointed windows and Tudor-style rectangular windows. It stands on Burwell Street in the southeastern part of the small Ontario town of Paris in a predominantly residential area that was once considered the centre of the small Ontario town. The designation refers to the building as defined by its footprint on its lot at the time of designation, excluding the two later additions.

Heritage Value

The Former Paris Town Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2020. It is recognized because:

• built in 1854, according to the plans of architect John Maxwell, this former town hall is a rare Canadian example of a civic building in the Gothic Revival-style. It is distinguished by the presence of medieval architectural details, including the magnificent wooden structure of the large hall on its second floor;
• it served as a combined town hall and market, similar to other buildings of this type built in Canada during the second half of the 19th century, which were inspired by British examples from the late 18th and early 19th centuries;
• it remains a monument to civic pride, constructed during a period of ambitious growth, when the small community of Paris emerged as an industrial town.

Completed in 1854, Paris Town Hall was designed by Scottish architect John Maxwell. The English Medieval Gothic Revival style of the building, often seen in churches, was an unusual choice for a civic building of this type, when, in the 19th century, the prevailing tradition was classical.
Like its exterior, the building’s interior has a number of original features. The room on the second floor, with its vaulted ceilings and arched doorways, is the building’s crown jewel. The ceiling has exposed wooden beams and six magnificent and very well preserved Gothic trusses. When it was first built, the ground floor was home to a covered market at one end and a council room and magistrate and treasurer offices at the other. The basement was used as a “lower market” and also housed cells for two prisoners; these are still extant.

For its first 50 years, this building served as a combined town hall and market, then it was used for various other purposes including a First World War shell factory, a needle manufacturing plant, a retail craft store, a private residence, and an auction house.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2019.

Character-Defining Elements

The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include: its location in an urban area in the town of Paris; its rectangular footprint with side sections and a side tower with a square base and angled buttresses; its combination of Gothic Revival lancet windows, including the large pointed window on the façade, and Tudor-style rectangular windows; its original materials, including the brick and stone inserts on the elevations and the wood of the doors and windows; the inscriptions on the façade; the second-floor room with its vaulted ceilings with wood beams and six Gothic trusses, arched doorways, and Tudor-style pointed windows; the main section of the ground floor consisting of a rectangular area with exposed brick walls and a ceiling supported by two rows of large wooden columns, as well as the former treasurer’s office and its adjoining vault; the traces of the original interior layout, including the two former prisoner cells in the basement; remaining original interior features and details.