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Taber Courthouse

Taber

Other Names:
Taber Court House

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Taber Courthouse is a single-storey building crowned by a low hip roof. Constructed in 1918, the courthouse features concrete, hollow tile, and timber construction and is distinguished by its stately arched entryway, stucco and brick exterior, and wide overhanging eaves. The Taber Courthouse is situated on three lots in the centre of town. A large single-storey annex was added to the northwest corner of the building in the 1970s.


Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Taber Courthouse lies in its association with the administration of justice in early Alberta. It is also significant as an architectural prototype for Alberta courthouses designed prior to World War Two.

In 1907, the Government of Alberta passed legislation establishing a provincial system of judicial districts for administering justice in the fledgling province. During the territorial period, courthouses had functioned in Fort Macleod, Calgary and Edmonton. The new provincial system established judicial districts in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort Macleod, Lethbridge and Wetaskiwin. As a result of Alberta’s rapid growth in its early years, the government also established some sub-judicial districts. Taber had no courthouse when it was declared a sub-judicial district of Lethbridge in 1914. In 1917, the town donated land and the government announced that it would construct a courthouse building that would also house the newly formed Alberta Provincial Police detachment earmarked for Taber. The choice of Taber for the home of the sub-judicial district may have been influenced by its large population of coal miners – a demographic often stigmatized as unruly – and by the appointment in 1917 of Archie McLean, the Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Taber, as Minister of Public Works. The Taber Courthouse was built in 1918, but the community’s status as a sub-judicial district was short-lived, lasting only until 1936, when it was officially dissolved. During its period of operation as a sub-judicial courthouse, the building was distinguished from other provincial courthouses by the non-judicial functions it also accommodated, including gathering place for town council and community organizations. When Taber lost sub-judicial district status in 1936, the courtroom continued to be used by the District Court, and its office spaces accommodated other provincial departments and the school district. In 1953, the Town of Taber acquired the courthouse for use as a town hall.

Plans for the Taber Courthouse were initially drawn up by Assistant Provincial Architect J.B. Allan in 1917, but were subsequently revised by Provincial Architect Richard P. Blakey. Constructed by the Medicine Hat firm of Hotson and Depew in 1918, the Taber facility was the first of a series of courthouses built by the provincial government to serve its sub-judicial districts. Blakey’s single-storey design called for an entrance hall, courtroom, offices and a vault on the main floor, with jail cells, a guard room, storage, heating and another vault in the basement. The main floor was designed to accommodate judicial functions while the basement initially accommodated the Alberta Provincial Police and later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Blakey designed the Taber Courthouse with utility in mind, and his design set a precedent for other courthouses in smaller communities constructed prior to World War Two. Similar courthouses were constructed in Blairmore, Grande Prairie, and Hanna during the 1920s.

Source: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 0892)


Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements that embody the heritage value of the Taber Courthouse include:

- central location in the Town of Taber;
- mass and form;
- symmetrical single-storey rectangular plan, including location of walls, doors and windows;
- low hip roof;
- chimney with decorative brickwork;
- wide overhanging and open eaves;
- stucco and brick exterior;
- contrasting brick accents on stucco;
- keystones;
- series of belt courses;
- decorative brick courses on corners;
- classically inspired projecting entrance;
- large round-arched, multi-paned, tripartite transom and sidelights;
- entrance arch supported on brackets;
- interior finishes such as lathe and plaster walls and millwork including baseboards, door casings and plinth blocks.


Location



Street Address: 4902 - 53 Street
Community: Taber
Boundaries: Lot 16, Block 15, Plan 1712398
Contributing Resources: Building

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
16
9
32
13 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1712398
15
16


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.785692 -112.145792

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2013/01/13

Historical Information

Built:
Significant Date(s) 1918-1935
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Governing Canada : Security and Law
Historic Function(s): Government : Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Current Function(s): Community : Civic Space
Architect: R.P. Blakey
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

Taber was selected as a sub-judicial district in 1914. Announcement of plans to construct a new courthouse was made October 1917. The building was designed by R.P. Blakey, Provincial Architect, and tenders were called for on February 14, 1918. Announcement of the successful bidders, cited as Messrs. Hudson, Leader, and Good, of Medicine Hat appeared in the Taber Times, on May 30, 1918. However, the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works for 1918 listed the firm of Hotson and Depew of Medicine Hat as contractors.

The building was used as a courthouse until August 1978 at which time the courts moved to a new facility.

The Taber courthouse is built of solid brick set on a concrete foundation and is sheathed with stucco. It is built on a simple, rectangular, one-storey, low hip-roofed plan with widely over-hanging eaves. All apertures are symmetrical, the classically inspired entrance centered in a five bay front elevation. The slightly projecting flat-topped entrance porch containing the door is dominated by a large round-arched, multi-paned, tri-partite transom and sidelights. Above the transom are hood-mouldings that terminate above columns on either side of the entrance. Horizontal brick courses at the building's corners are suggestive of quoins.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0594
Designation File: DES 0892
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 32057
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 0892)
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