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Key Number: HS 32057
Site Name: Taber Courthouse
Other Names:
Site Type: 1304 - Governmental: Court House


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
10 16 4

Address: 4902 - 53 Street
Number: 2
Street: 53
Avenue: 49
Town: Taber
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 1
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Medium Hip
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Main Porch - Roof Type: Flat
Number of Bays - Facade: First or Ground Floor, 5 Bays
Roof Trim - Eaves: Projecting Eaves
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Semi-Circular
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Column or Engaged Column
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Shaped Transom, Multiple Lights
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Side Lights
Main Porch - Type: Open Porch
Exterior: Low hip-roofed brick and wood frame structure, major features are wide, overhanging eaves and a classically inspired portal. All apertures are symmetrical. The classically inspired entrance is centred 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 which terminate above columns on either side of the entrance. Horizontal brick courses at the building's corners are suggestive of quoins.
Interior: Drawings indicate the basement was used for male and female detention, with a guard room, supposedly used first by the RCMP and after used by the Town Police. Cells have since been removed. Both vaults as shown are still intact. The ground floor included a Court Room, general office are Sheriff's Room and a second vault. The floor of the Court Room has Maple wooden floors and the Judge's bench still exists. The exterior of the building is of 'Taber Made' soft texture brick, manufactured here in Taber. This building was used for some time as a Town Office and the Court Room as council chambers until the new administration building was built.
Environment: N/A
Condition: The structure is sound and exhibits a high degree of original fabric on both interior and exterior surfaces. Normal deterioration is evident, however, overall maintenance is good. (June 5, 1980)
Alterations: N/A


Construction: Construction Date:
Usage: Usage Date:
Owner: Owner Date:
Town of Taber
Architect: R.P. Blakey
Builder: Hotson and Depew for the Department of Public Works.
Craftsman: N/A
History: Although Alberta became a province in 1905, the Territorial Court system remained operational for two more years while the province designed and implemented the apparatus for its replacement. Legislation passed in 1907 replaced the Supreme Court of the North West Territories with the Supreme Court of Alberta consisting of a Chief Justice and four Puisne Judges vested with all the power and authority exercised by the previous system. A second Act established a new District Court system. The province was initially divided into the five judicial districts of Lethbridge, Macleod, Calgary, Edmonton and Wetaskiwin.
The first District Court judges were appointed in November, 1907, and assigned to Macleod, Lethbridge, Edmonton, and Calgary. The province's rapid increase in population, particularly in the southern and central regions, resulted in a corresponding jump in the number of judicial and sub-judicial districts in the following years. The Athabasca Judicial District was established in 1909, although its court functions continued to be handled from Edmonton until 1916. The Judicial Districts of Red Deer, Stettler, and Medicine Hat along with the sub-judicial districts of Bassano and Taber, were added in 1914 resulting in a corresponding increase in the number of District Court Judges within the province. Additional districts were added throughout the post-war period, raising the provincial total to ten Judicial Districts and six sub-judicial districts. At present, there are twelve Judicial Districts in Alberta.
Court house construction during the 1906-1914 period was characterized by the extensive utilization of materials and labour procured either locally or within the province. The construction of all buildings was directly supervised by the Provincial Architect and members of his staff until 1913 when building superintendents were appointed to relieve the supervising architect of some of his duties. Concomitantly, the first great era of Public Works court house building drew to a close as the Canadian Government retrenched in all areas outside direct involvement in the war effort. Even those expansions of court services that were authorized during wartime were accomplished merely with the renovation of existing structures.
Oddly, in late 1917, (before the massive impact of the German spring offensive of 1918) plans for the commencement of court house construction were made public with the announcement that a new structure would be built in the Town of Taber, fifty kilometres east of Lethbridge. It was the impact of war that affected the decision to proceed. The war had stimulated the coal economy of Taber and the growth of the town through the influx of miners employed in the three local mines prompted the need for a new court house. Strictly speaking, the Taber Court House was not part of a post-war resurgence of the Public Works building programme, however, the reduced scale and the use of materials cheaper than quarried stone came to typify small town court house construction in the succeeding years. As built, the Court House is solid brick, set on a concrete foundation, sheathed with brick and stucco. It is built on a simple, rectangular, one-storey, low hip-roofed plan with widely overhanging eaves. All apertures are symmetrical and the classically inspired entrance is centred in the five bay front elevation. The slightly projecting flat-topped entrance porch containing the door is dominated by a large round-arched, multi-paned, tripartite transom and side lights. Above the transom are hood mouldings which terminate above one applied column on either side of the entrance. Horizontal brick courses at the building's corners are suggestive of quoins.
Taber was selected as a sub-judicial district in 1914. Announcement of plans to construct a new courthouse were made in October 1917. The building was designed by R.P. Blakey, Provincial Architect, and tenders were called for on 14 February 1918. Announcement of the successful bidders, cited as Messrs, Hudson, Leader, and Good, of Medicine Hat appeared in the 'Taber Times', on 30 May 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 court house until August 1978 at which time the courts moved to a new facility.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT: In 1907, legislation was passed in the Alberta Legislative Assembly designed to implement a new court system to replace the old North West Territorial Court system. In Canada, federal laws, including the criminal code, are a federal responsibility, but the process of enforcing the judicial system for civil, criminal, probate and other cases is the responsibility of the provinces. This is aside from cases taken before the Supreme Court of Canada. The provinces are also responsible for handling cases involving interpretation of provincial laws. What has become known as Provincial (or Magistrate’s) Court also serves as the court of first hearing, where cases involving the criminal code are first heard, and then remanded over to the province’s supreme court (In Alberta also known as Court of Queen’s Bench) if a trial is warranted. The provinces also have a court of appeal. Cases taken beyond that go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

During the Territorial period, courthouses were functioning in Fort Macleod, Calgary and Edmonton. With the new provincial system, judicial districts were formed in Calgary, Edmonton, Macleod, Lethbridge, and Wetaskiwin, with the Court of Appeal hearing cases only in Calgary and Edmonton. When the judicial districts were established, different judges would hear the different level of cases, and in other areas of sparse population, judges would usually be sent out from the judicial centers on circuit.

With the rapid growth of Alberta in the early 20th century, more judicial districts, and some sub-judicial districts, were established. One of the sub-judicial districts was Taber, established in 1917 as a sub-judicial district of Lethbridge. Taber had grown considerably in size due to the increased coal production needed for the war effort. The growing number of miners of eastern European descent may have influenced the Attorney General of Alberta as to the desirability of a court there, even though it was only 50km east of Lethbridge.

At the time Taber was made a sub-judicial district, there was no courthouse, and the war effort mitigated against the construction of public buildings. However, the newly appointed Minister of Public Works was A.J. Maclean, who represented Taber in the Legislative Assembly. In October 1917, the start of a new courthouse was publicly announced for Taber. For the project, the Town donated Lots 12, 13 and 14, Block 15, which bordered on Douglas Avenue and Mitchell and Front Streets in the center of town. An initial set of plans for the building was prepared by J.B. Allen, acting Provincial Architect in the temporary absence of Provincial Architect, R.P. Blakey. These plans were soon superseded by a second set of plans by Allen. Tenders were called for and received in December 1917, but they were rejected because Blakey had returned to his job and apparently did not like them. He therefore drew up a third set which were submitted for tender on 18 February, 1918. Blakey’s plans called for the courthouse to accommodate offices for the newly formed Alberta Provincial Police detachment earmarked for Taber.

On 30 May 1918, the successful bidder was announced by the Taber Times as Hudson, Leader & Good of Medicine Hat. This may have been an error, or this contractor withdrew or was dismissed, for in the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works for 1918, the contractor was listed as Hotson and Dew of Medicine Hat. In any case, excavation of the site was completed by the end of June, and in mid-November, the one-story brick structure was completed. Court proceedings followed shortly thereafter. The courthouse served the district until 1978, when it was replaced by a new courthouse.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The historical significance of the Taber Courthouse lies in its representation of the enforcement of all aspects of the judicial system in the Taber district for 60 years, and also accommodated the local detachment of the Alberta Provincial Police for a few years.
The Taber Courthouse is a single-story brick building situated in the centre of Taber. Constructed in 1918, this was the first of a series of courthouses built by the Province to serve its newly established sub-judicial districts. The building continued to be used for judicial and other public functions until 1953, after which it served for a period as Taber’s town hall.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Provincial Historic Resource
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/07/12


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0594
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