Winnipeg Law Courts National Historic Site of Canada
Winnipeg Law Courts
Palais de justice de Winnipeg
Links and documents
1912/01/01 to 1916/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Winnipeg Law Courts National Historic Site of Canada is located directly across from the Legislature Building in the provincial government precinct of downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is a three-storey, Beaux Arts style building of sculpted grey limestone. Its monumental scale and prominent siting attest to its important role and symbolize the judicial institution of Manitoba. Official recognition refers to the building on its footprint at the time of designation (1980).
The Winnipeg Law Courts was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 because:
- it is representative of the judicial institution in Manitoba;
- its classically-inspired design provided an impressive symbol for Manitoba's court system.
The heritage value of this site lies in its illustration of its judicial function and its classically-inspired design. Constructed during an extended period of great optimism in the province, the Law Courts building was designed by the Provincial Architect, Victor W. Horwood, to complement the new Legislative Building, a monumental neo-classical structure under construction across the street. Beginning in 1912, construction of the steel-framed Law Courts took four years and was timed to open in conjunction with the new Legislative Building.
The formal grandeur of the classically-inspired Beaux-Arts design reflects the dignity of the Law Courts. An elaborate corner cupola with a raised copper dome ties the pedimented pavilions on the south and east façades together, and draws the eye to the columned “grand entrance” on Kennedy Street. Across the façades run a dentilled cornice and a deep parapet, all in creamy-grey limestone. The major public spaces of the interior feature grey marble floors and walls of Missisquoi grey marble swirling with subtle green tones, to a height of 2.7 metres (9 feet). Coffered squares segment the ceilings in flashes of gold leaf and soft green. The courtrooms to either side are finished with oak paneling.
The building’s functional design is tied to its important role. Double-loaded corridors run through each wing, with a closed U-shaped interior courtyard providing natural light to the interior. Measuring 70 by 60 metres (233 by 199 feet) with three full floors, the Law Courts provided ample space for its many courtrooms, offices, judges’ chambers and a large library. Interior court rooms feature large windows, with the higher courts accessed by interior passageways so that prisoners could be brought directly into the court from holding areas below, and to provide private entries for the judges.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, March 1980.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of the Winnipeg Law Courts include:
- its siting, stepped back from the street;
- those elements relating to its representation of the judicial institution of Manitoba, such as its landmark status within the Manitoba Government precinct, continuing the classical theme of other government structures of the era;
- those elements relating to its classically-inspired design, such as its monumental massing and Beaux-Arts style with dressed limestone walls, regularly punctuated by classically-dressed windows and surmounted with a dentilled cornice and parapet, its impressive public entry on Kennedy Street with broad stone steps leading to a columned, pedimented portico with the figures of Justice and two supporting figures in the tympanum, and its corner cupola with Ionic columns and scrolled brackets supporting the copper-clad dome;
- its grand and lavishly finished public spaces including the marble foyer dedicated by the Law Society of Manitoba to its members fallen in World War Two, the double-return marble staircase with balustrade at the top of the grand entrance, the hallways lined in grey-green marble beneath coffered ceilings laid out to converge at a central area with elevators behind large columns, and the courtrooms lined with warm oak paneling and lit by tall windows;
- evidence of the original functional design that provided an interior layout ensuring that the work of the courts could be carried out comfortably and efficiently, its use of contemporary steel-frame technology, allowing a flexible floor plan and large window openings;
- its quality of materials, maintained to the same high standard throughout the building, including original hardware such as brass door knobs and backplates carved with buffalo, the symbol of Manitoba, the scales of justice on each interior door, and decorative bronze grills screening mechanical systems.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Governing Canada
- Security and Law
Function - Category and Type
- Town or City Hall
- Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Architect / Designer
Victor W. Horwood
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection