Description of Historic Place
The Old Kamloops Courthouse is a three-storey Edwardian Baroque-style public administration building with a formal central entry and a corner tower with a copper cupola. Clad in red brick with granite and limestone detailing, this imposing structure is situated on a landmark terraced site at the corner of Seymour Street West and First Avenue, with commanding views of the city and the Thompson River. The original Land Registry building, located at the rear of the Courthouse, is also included in the formal recognition.
The Old Kamloops Courthouse is valued as a landmark complex of buildings and surrounding landscape. As the physical embodiment of the provincial legal system in the City’s early years, the complex was designed to convey a sense of justice and authority through the use of traditional and imposing design. The fact that this building was constructed in Kamloops reflects the importance of the city as a prominent commercial and industrial hub in the BC Interior in the early 1900s. The current building replaces two previous courthouses located elsewhere in the city. A grant of $20,000 for a new courthouse and offices was issued by the province in 1907. The Courthouse and perimeter wall were completed in 1909, and the Land Registry was added to the rear in 1911.
The Old Kamloops Courthouse is further valued as a demonstration of the province's prosperity and growth, and as a symbolic link to the provincial government. Constructed during the early years of the twentieth century, as British Columbia enjoyed a boom of unprecedented proportions spurred by the resource-based economy and optimistic foreign investment, this building was part of a network of related buildings in Vancouver, Revelstoke, Kamloops, Nelson, Vernon and Fernie that consolidated the Province’s administration of the judicial system. At the heart of the Old Kamloops Courthouse, the formal and traditional court room demonstrates the lasting influence of the traditional British justice system.
The Old Kamloops Courthouse is also a superb and intact example of the Edwardian Baroque style, and its interior demonstrates an Arts and Crafts sensibility. Mainly symmetrical, the building features an elaborate central entry, prominent parapet gables and a corner square-domed tower. It was constructed primarily of local brick, British Columbia stone such as granite, limestone and slate, and wood from local lumber mills. The choice of materials symbolized a commitment to the use of quality British Columbia products, a source of pride in this provincial building. An exceptional level of design and craftsmanship is evident throughout the building. It is one of the most accomplished designs of prominent architects Dalton & Eveleigh, and the stained glass came from the studio of Charles Bloomfield. The same design elements were used in the Land Registry building, which was designed by the Provincial Department of Public Works and constructed on axis behind the main building. Now owned by the City of Kamloops, the Old Kamloops Courthouse is one of British Columbia’s most striking Edwardian-era public buildings and a Kamloops landmark.
Source: City of Kamloops Planning Department
The elements that define the heritage character of the Old Kamloops Courthouse include its:
- prominent location on Seymour Street West and First Avenue at the entrance to the downtown core
- siting on a terraced corner site, set back from the road with views of the city and the Thompson River
- complex traditional form, grand scale and side-gabled massing of the Courthouse with its central-gabled projection at the front entry, corner square tower with turret on the west side and bay with windows on the east side
- spatial relationship between the Courthouse and the Land Registry, including connecting open external breezeway
- masonry construction of the Courthouse and Land Registry including: pressed red brick facades, tuckpointing, tapered rubble-stone granite foundations, dressed limestone accents and slate roofs; central exterior granite staircase to main entrance of Courthouse; masonry perimeter wall with bands of rubble-stone granite and dressed stone detailing
- consistent use of Edwardian Baroque architectural features such as curved stone modillions, tapered pinnacles at the corners, crenellated parapets, dressed limestone banding, Palladian and recessed window openings, and cupola with copper roof
- provincial symbolism, such as carved provincial crest on front projecting bay and interior dogwood motifs
- fenestration, such as six-over-one double-hung wooden-sash windows with horns, six-paned casement window in corner bay, four-paned casement windows in oriel bay at front entrance and Palladian window with multi-paned leaded stained glass
- additional exterior details such as copper gutters and pressed red-brick chimney with limestone detailing
- intact interior features of the Courthouse such as: intact courtroom with judge's dais with canopy, prisoners dock, ornate wainscoting, mouldings and dentils with quatrefoil symbolism and domed ceiling with ornate wooden bracing; general interior details such as intact room configuration, wooden flooring, gauged plaster cornices, tapered newel posts with carved dogwood flowers, interior leaded glass with Arts and Crafts floral influence, mosaic tilework, ogee (S-shaped) doorways; oak entry lobby and front entry doors; and intact jail in the basement
- formal symmetrical landscaping with mature deciduous trees, including Silver Maples, stepped masonry perimeter wall, and granite staircases