Frontenac County Court House National Historic Site of Canada
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 2004)
1 Court Street, Kingston, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1855 to 1858
1874 to 1874
Event, Person, Organization:
Scobell and Tossell
Frontenac County Court House
Existing plaque: 1 Court Street, Kingston, Ontario
This grand Neoclassical building has served the courts of Frontenac County since its opening in 1858. Designed by the Dorset-born architect, Edward Horsey, it is superbly sited on land originally acquired in 1840 for a house of parliament, at a time when Kingston was one of several possible sites for the capital of Canada. Constructed of stone quarried on site, it features many of the traditional exterior elements of large-scale mid-19th century court houses: the use of classical detailing, the balanced three- part composition of centre pavilion and side wings, and a bold portico and dome.
Description of Historic Place
Frontenac County Court House National Historic Site of Canada is a large, limestone court house, built in the mid-19th century in the Neoclassical style. Its imposing columned portico and dome overlook a wide expanse of park to the shoreline of Lake Ontario. It is located in a downtown residential area of 19th-century homes, adjacent to Queen’s University, in the city of Kingston. The formal recognition consists of the building on its legal property at the time of designation.
Frontenac County Court House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 because: it is representative of a significant functional type; it features many of the traditional exterior elements of large-scale mid-19th century court houses.
Frontenac County Court House is representative of the large-scale, court houses erected in Ontario after 1850. The passage of the Municipal Act gave increased power to county government, justifying the construction of court houses on a monumental scale to accommodate multiple county functions. The Frontenac County Court House is one of several surviving court houses built during the boom in court house construction from 1852 to 1856. Designed by architect Edward Horsey, the building’s elaborate façade, comprised of a central portico, flanking wings and domed cupola, and the elaborate mix of Italianate and classical detailing, are typical of mid-19th century Ontario judicial buildings. The court house was rebuilt by architect John Power and contractor George Newlands in 1874 following a fire. The only significant exterior change was the central dome, which was given added height and emphasis.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, March 1980.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Frontenac County Court House include: its monumental scale; its exterior features typical of large-scale, mid 19th-century court houses, including classical detailing and composition, a bold portico, and a domed cupola; its Neoclassical style, evident in its form, composition and detailing; its symmetrical composition, consisting of a centre pavilion with central dome and pedimented portico; flanking end pavilions terminating in projecting bays with diminished and responsive pediments; regularly placed window and door openings; the features added in 1874, including the domed cupola resting on a drum composed of sixteen arched windows and cupolas on the end pavilions; the grand, pedimented portico, with frieze, cornice, Ionic columns, pilasters, coffered ceiling, and tympanum with the county court of arms; its sophisticated mix of Italianate and classical detailing its construction of local limestone; the surviving nineteenth-century elements of its interior plan and decorative finishes; the features of its site, including, the broad expanse of gently inclined, landscaped lawn fronting the courthouse; and the centrally placed stone fountain.