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Key Number: HS 30880
Site Name: Medicine Hat Courthouse
Other Names:
Site Type: 1304 - Governmental: Court House


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
12 5 4

Address: 460-466 - 1 Street SE
Number: 60-66
Street: 1 SE
Avenue: 4 SE
Town: Medicine Hat
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Style: Beaux Arts
Plan Shape: Rectangular Long Facade
Storeys: Storeys: 2
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Brick
Superstructure Cover: Brick - Bond: Stretcher Concrete: Decorated Precast Panel
Roof Structure: Medium Hip
Roof Cover: Tile or Terra Cotta
Exterior Codes: Massing of Units: Single Detached
Wings: None
Wings: Rear
Number of Bays - Facade: First or Ground Floor, 9 Bays or more
Wall Design and Detail: Arcading
Wall Design and Detail: Frontispiece
Wall Design and Detail: Column or Engaged Column
Wall Design and Detail: Pier or Pilaster
Wall Design and Detail: Quoins
Wall Design and Detail: String or Belt Course
Wall Design and Detail: Plinth
Wall Design and Detail: Entablature
Wall Design and Detail: Carving
Wall Design and Detail: Inscription or Date Stone
Wall Design and Detail: Decorative Brick
Roof Trim - Eaves: Projecting Eaves
Roof Trim - Eaves: Moulded Fascia
Roof Trim - Eaves: Decorated Fascia
Roof Trim - Eaves: Decorated Soffit
Roof Trim - Eaves: Moulded Frieze
Roof Trim - Eaves: Decorated Frieze
Roof Trim - Eaves: Other
Roof Trim Material - Eaves: Stone
Roof Trim Material - Eaves: Concrete
Roof Trim - Verges: Not Applicable
Roof Trim Material - Verges: None
Dormer Type: None
Chimney Location - Side to Side: None
Chimney Location - Side to Side: Centre
Chimney Location - Front to Rear: Other
Chimney Stack Material: Brick
Chimney Stack Massing: Cluster Attached
Roof Trim - Special Features: Other
Window - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Entablature
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Other
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Quoins
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Material: Stone
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Material: Concrete
Window - Sill Type: Decorated Lug Sill
Window - Sill Type: Continuous Sill
Window - Sill Material: Stone
Window - Sill Material: Concrete
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Moulded
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Moulded
Window - Number of Sashes: Two, Double Hung
Window - Opening Mechanism: Single or Double Hung
Window - Special Types: Semi-Circular
Window - Pane Arrangements: 6 over 1
Main Entrance - Location: Centre (Facade)
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Semi-Circular
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Curved Pediment
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Other
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Quoins
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Column or Engaged Column
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening Material: Stone
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening Material: Concrete
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Decorated
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Flat Transom, Multiple Lights
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Moulded
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Decorated
Main Entrance - Number of Leaves: 2
Main Entrance - Number of Panels Per Leaf: 2
Main Entrance - Number of Panels Per Leaf: 4
Main Entrance - Leaves - Special Feature: Shaped Panel
Main Entrance - Leaves - Special Feature: Glass
Main Stairs - Location and Design: First or Ground Floor, Without Railing
Main Stairs - Direction: Straight
Main Porch - Type: Platform
Main Porch - Special Features: None
Exterior: Stone trim, coupled Tuscan columns, symmetrical main facade broken into advancing and receding planes by means of arcading and quoins.
Textural contrast in brick and stone. Joist roof.
Partico entrance at front; decorative brick and concrete around windows; semi-circular windows on second floor; entablature.
Exterior treatment follows a Beaux-Arts Classicism style.
Interior: Hollow tile partitions, concrete floor on 1 and 2. Offices on first floor, courtrooms and library on second floor. Marble panelling in entrance.
Environment: Lot size: 200' wide x 300' deep. Centered on four landscaped lots near the South Saskatchewan River. Many old buildings in the neighbourhood. Located on 4 lanscaped city lots overlooking the S. Saskatchewan River. Area could posibly be turned into a new civic center once new city hall is constructed. Surrounded by park overlooking the river.
Condition: Structure: Good. Repair: Good. 1 JUL 1975. Structure: Good (1983). Good (2004)
Alterations: 1916 - Alterations to provide room for district judge. 1961 - reshingle roof - permit #419. 1966-69 - interior renovations - permit #433. Apendix Itemized list of renovations and alterations to Medicine Hat Court House, appended to Programme for official reopening ceremonies, 25 June 1969. RENOVATIONS to COURT HOUSE 1. Light tin roof replaced with asphalt shingles. 2. Ceiling on Top Floor insulated with loose fill, and some Fibreglass. 3. Ceiling in Court Room strapped, insulated with fibreglass, covered with special pegboard, and then covered with burlap. 4. Walls similar to ceiling, except that bark cloth was final coat. 5. Audience part of floor sanded to smooth finish, tile replaced only on borders, and then sealed and kept waxed. 6. All wood cleaned and refinished in all parts of the building. 1984 - addition.


Construction: Construction Date:
Purchased property
Plans revised
Usage: Usage Date:
Court House
Court House
Owner: Owner Date:
Right of the prov. of Alberta
Province of Alberta
Her Majesty the Queen in

Architect: Richard P. Blakey
Builder: Bennett & White Construction Co.
Craftsman: N/A
History: In 1909 the site was purchased for $11,000.
In 1913 the first plans were prepared by R.P. Blakey.
In 1918 the plans were revised, and in April of 1919 the plans were drawn.
In September of 1920 the first court was held. Its judicial function dates to the Territorial Jurisdiction.
This building is among the oldest court houses in the Province in continuous use as such since construction. Although it was not the first court house in Medicine Hat, it is now the oldest- standing one.
It is a reminder of one of the oldest judicial traditions in Alberta, which goes back to 1892, when Medicine Hat was established as the seat of the Judicial district of Assiniboia under the old territorial government.

* * *
Built under Permit #43, ussued June 24, 1919. Estimated cost of construction - $130,000.
Note: Cornerstone indicates building was completed in 1919, but a pemit was also issued April 12, 1913 (permit #184) - some discrepancy of legal address on the permits, but recorded legal is correct.
Builder: Bennett White Const. Co.
1916 - alterations to provide room for district judge.
* * *
The is among one of the oldest courthouses in the province. It is now the oldest standing courthouse. Property was purchased in 1909, however due to spending cut-backs, plans of contruction were shelved until 1918. The court house continues to be the example of this style and architecture for the rest of the province.
* * *
Two-storey, L-shaped building, showing Beaux-Arts Classicism style.
Constructed on a steel superstructure with ornate stone and brick trim. Major interior renovations were carried out in 1968-69.
Property for this courthouse purchased 1909, when plans were made to contruct new court facilities. (Previous courthouse built 1899).
Expenditure cut-backs forced plans for new court house to be shelved.
Plans revised 1918 and court house constructed 1919-20. At first the building held all the local Provincial offices including the Mounted Police and the police cells, in addition to the court facilities.
The main heritage significance of this building lies in its architecture, which showed a departure from previous court house design, and resulted in the building being a prototype for later court houses. It is the oldest, most ornate, and best example of its style in Alberta. Its also part of a judicial tradition dating back to the territorial government.
...It is a reminder of one of the oldest judicial traditions in Alberta, which goes back to 1892, when Medicine Hat was established as the seat of the Judicial district of Assiniboia under the old territorial government.
* * *

Medicine Hat's beginnings as a permanent community date from its establishment as an early distributing point on the Canadian Pacific's transcontinental line in 1883. It subsequently emerged as the principal shipping point for an extensive ranching region located in the District of Assiniboia, later to become the south-eastern section of the Province of Alberta. With construction of the Crow's Nest line during the late 1890's, Medicine Hat became a major divisional point for the CPR, a factor which, coupled with the discovery of major natural gas deposits in the vicinity, led to its rapid growth during the first two decades of this century. Its population climbed steadily during this period, from 1,570 in 1901 to 13,000 by 1920.

The forces of law and order made their appearance in Medicine Hat in the year of its inception when a North-West Mounted Police outpost was located in the community. Between 1883 and 1893 court functions were carried out by members of the local detachment who were empowered as ex-officio justices of the peace. Although the frame work for a Supreme Court of the North West Territories was formally established in 1886, its implementation was a gradual process. Medicine Hat was subsequently designated as judicial seat for the District of Assiniboia, but provision of local court facilities did not occur until 1892. In that year the outfitting of a combination police barracks and court room in an existing government building was noted in the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works. Court cases continued to be held in this building until 1897. Construction of Medicine Hat's first true court house occured in 1899. In his annual report for that year, D. Ewart, chief architect for the Dominion Department of Public Works, reported:
On August, 1899, contract was entered into for the construction of a building to replace that destroyed by fire, June, 1897. It is to be a two storey wooden building on a stone basement, 51 feet by 28 feet. On the ground floor are to be five offices, a stairway, hall and two cells for prisoners. The first floor will have a court room, barristers' room, jury room, judge's room and one extra office. Basement for fuel stoves, etc. Latrines in detached building at rear.
The builder of the new court house was Charles Purmal, who erected it for a total cost of $8,297.21. The functional cross-gabled design was produced by the Department of Public Works under Ewart's supervision, and served as a prototype for later brick versions erected at Red Deer and Fort MacLeod.
Medicine Hat was not among the initial five judicial districts designated upon the transition from territorial to provincial administrations in 1907 to locate new court facilities in the city.
In that year a site consisting of lots 7-10, Block B was acquired by the Provincial Government at a cost of $11,000. As an interim measure, the 1899 Court House was purchased from the Dominion Government in 1910 and again put into service. Plans for a new building were prepared by the Provincial Architect's office in 1913, but were shelved indefinitely due to a stringent cut-back in expenditures on public buildings introduced in that year. Thus, when the Judicial District of Medicine Hat was established in August 1914, the old former terrritorial court house became the initial judicial seat. It remained in use until 1919 due to the continued policy of building restraint in the province. When construction activity was resumed in 1918, replacement of the by then seriously overcrowded Medicine Hat court facilities became a major priority of the Department of Public Works. In his annual report for the following year, Provincial Architect Richard P. Blakey announced:
Plans for this building as prepared some years ago were discussed and it was decided that the modifications required were such that a new design seemed advisable. Amended plans and specifications were, therefore, prepared and tenders invited. The tender of Messrs. Bennett and White Construction Company of Calgary, being the lowest, was accepted and construction of this building was commenced in August. The building was completed in just over one year.

In 1920 Blakey noted that court had been held for the first time in the new building in September of that year. Special court rooms fittings, he added, 'were detailed in this office and manufactured in our Edmonton shop'.

The Medicine Hat Court House represented a departure in style and layout from earlier designs in the province. The exterior treatment followed a currently popular architectural trend known as Beaux-Arts Classicism, which had been introduced to court house architecture in the United States around the turn of the century. Characteristic details - the use of coupled classical columns, a symmetrical main facade broken into advancing and receding planes by means of archading and quoins - were combined with textural contrast achieved through the use of brick and stone as well as a Spanish tiled roof to introduce a distinctly new form of court house design to the province. A further departure from earlier designs was the introduction of an L-shaped plan consisting of a symmetrical front section with a rear wing extension of on the right side. Internally, this permitted Blakey to avoid the single full-length corridor layout he had previously emloyed on the Calgary Court House, and facilitated the placement of a large main court room on the right side of the second floor. Main access to the building is by means of a central vestibule which leads onto an elevated central hall located in the physical centre of the building.

Corridors leading to adminstrative offices on the main floor open off both sides of this area, while the main staircase to the second floor is located immediately to the rear.
In some respects, the layout of the court facilities on the upper floor appear to be retrogressive by comparison to earlier designs, particularly that of the Edmonton Court House produced by Blakey's predecessor, A.M. Jeffers. The desirability of insulating the court room from exterior walls in order to reduce external noise and distraction was a primary condideration in court house design during the pre-war years. In the Medicine Hat building, however, large windows on the front and right walls of the building open directly into the chamber. Other facilities on the upper floor include a smaller district court room on the left end of the building, along with a large law library, jury, judges', witnesses', and reporters' rooms. Exterior walls of the building were constructed of brick with stone trimming over a steel superstructure; internal divisional walls were built of hollow tile.

The Medicine Hat Court House occupies a distinct niche among buildings of its type in the province. As previously noted, it represented a departure from major pre-war designs which had been produced primarily by R.P. Blakey's predecessor in office. On the other hand, it exercised considerable influence on the two large court house designs yet to be produced prior to the depression era, at Red Deer and Vegreville. Both of these later buildings, erected over ten years after the Medicine Hat Court House and seven years after Blakey's departure from office, employed a similar L-shaped plan along with various architectural features inroduced in the earlier structure.

During the late 1960s the Medicine Hat Court House underwent extensive interior renovations which inluded replacement of the original tiled roof with asphalt shingles; alterations to the interior of the court room and repalcement of wiring, plumbing and heating systems as well as most furnishings. The building was officially reopened on 25 June 1969.
* * *
Provincial Courthouse
Medicine Hat's Provincial Courthouse is one of the most unique public buildings in the province of Alberta. Officially opened on September 21, 1920, it was the town's second courthouse, the first having been erected in 1899. In architectural terms the new building represented a dramatic departure in both style and plan from earlier courthouse designs in the province. An L-shape layout was adapted for the building, a design feature copied in the two large courthouses built later in the towns of Red Deer and Vegreville. The exterior treatment closely followed that of Beaux-Art Classicism, a rich, classical, though also eclectic French architectural style popular toward the end of the 19th century. Characteristic of this style are the building's twinned classical columns and symmetrical main facade broken into advancing and receding planes by means of arches and quoins. Inside, the foyer and other public areas are finely appointed in marble and birch. The central stairway with its ornate brass and oak balustrade is lighted by a handsome leaded-glass window in the building's rear elevation. The original red Spanish tile roof was replaced during a general refurbishing of the building in 1968-69. The Medicine Hat courthouse was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/06/26


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0396
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