Leeds and Grenville County Court House National Historic Site of Canada
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada)
1 Court House Square, Brockville, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1842 to 1844
1888 to 1888
2005 to 2005
1898 to 1898
Event, Person, Organization:
Benjamin Chaffey (contractor)
Leeds and Grenville County Court House
Existing plaque: Court House Square 1 Court House Square, Brockville, Ontario
Symbols of law and authority to a new and changing society, the district court houses of Upper Canada were architecturally prominent buildings in the colony. Of these, one of the most grandiose is the former Johnstown District court house which was erected in the early 1840s and at present houses the county courts for Leeds-Grenville. Planned by the noted Toronto architect, John Howard, the building easily incorporates the diverse facilities of a court room, offices and jail while presenting an exterior of classical and monumental proportions.
Description of Historic Place
The Leeds and Grenville County Court House is a monumental building prominently situated at the top of the historic town square in the city of Brockville, Ontario. Set on a hill, the square is framed by churches and formal civic architecture, and overlooks the historic downtown, and the St. Lawrence River. The courthouse, designed in the British classical tradition, is a symmetrical, stone building with a dignified principal façade composed of a central block with portico flanked by two identical wings. Official recognition refers to the building on its legal lot.
The Leeds and Grenville County Court House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1966 because it is one of the most grandiose district court houses of Upper Canada, and because the building easily incorporates the diverse facilities of court room, offices and jail while presenting an exterior of classical and monumental proportions.
The present Leeds and Grenville County Court House is an imposing Neoclassical structure designed by the noted Toronto architect John Howard and constructed in 1842-44 by Benjamin Chaffey, a local contractor. Conceived as a multiple use structure, the building has been enlarged and renovated but retains the original arrangement of prison and court facilities. In combining the functions of a courthouse, office and jail, the council was amalgamating funds from two separate programs – those for civil and judicial administration. The result is a building that is larger and more complex than if two separate buildings had been constructed. The west wing was added in 1888, while the Gaoler's House on the east side was built in 1898.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June, 1966.
The key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:
its siting on a square overlooking a broad boulevard facing historic downtown, and the St. Lawrence River; the rectangular, three-storey massing of the original 1842-1844 court house; the three-storey, masonry jail wing at the east end with enclosed exercise yard; the building’s stone construction; the symmetrical, principal facade with classical portico and pediment supported by four large engaged Ionic columns; the carefully balanced proportions of the original five-bay central block and flanking three-bay wings; its tripartite horizontal organization with tall ground floor distinguished by rusticated masonry and arched openings, second and third floors united by the giant order of the pillared portico, and the pediment projecting above the whole; the quality workmanship of the principal façade evidenced in the fine ashlar masonry, window surrounds, and portico with monumental Ionic columns, cornice, and simple parapet with shallow relief carving within the tympanum; the clock in the tympanum; the figure of Justice as a blind-folded woman holding the scales of justice at the apex of the pediment; surviving features and finishes in the major public spaces, notably the central hall and staircase; evidence of the original interior plan including the courtroom, offices and jail; viewscapes to and from the building, across the square, down to the river.