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Former Victoria Law Courts National Historic Site of Canada

28 Bastion Square, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1981/11/13

General view of Former Victoria Law Courts, showing its rectangular plan and solid three-storey massing with a flat roof, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
General view
General view of Former Victoria Law Courts, showing its eclectic architectural style as evidenced in its irregular fenestration, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
General view
General view of Former Victoria Law Courts, showing the horizontal emphasis expressed through its rectangular massing accented by stringcourses and heavy cornicing, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
General view

Other Name(s)

Former Victoria Law Courts National Historic Site of Canada
Former Victoria Law Courts
Ancien palais de justice de Victoria

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1887/01/01 to 1888/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/11/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Overlooking James Bay in Victoria, British Columbia, the Former Victoria Law Courts National Historic Site of Canada is a rectangular three-story building with a horizontal emphasis which was purpose built to house the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The late 19th-centurty electic design provides an interesting combination of various stylistic elements. With an asymmetrical yet balanced composition and a flat roof, the building features a lively synthesis including two interesting round corner towers, heavy cornicing, prominent stringcourses, round arched windows, and rustication of the ground floor. The building is a visual focal point in the Bastion Square complex overlooking the waterfront area. While the courts were relocated in 1962, the building has since been converted and currently houses the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. Official recogition refers to the building on its legal lot at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

The Former Victoria Law Courts was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1980 because:
- it is representative of the judicial institution in British Columbia;
- this first major public building constructed by the provincial government after union with Canada marked an important stage in the evolution of British Columbia’s court system and the start of a programme to erect permanent court houses in judicial districts throughout the province;
- its unique design used a composite of various stylistic elements and was determined by the utilitarian priorities of the court house function.

Completed in 1889, the Former Victoria Law Courts marked an important stage in the evolution of British Columbia’s court system. It was the first major public building built in British Columbia after Confederation, and its construction ushered in a concerted phase of courthouse construction throughout the entire province. Over the next seven years, it was followed by a succession of brick or stone court buildings in Vancouver, New Westminster, Vernon, and Nanaimo. However, the building remained unique in its electic architectural style, composed of various stylistic elements, resulting from the architect Herman Otto Tiedeman’s intentions to provide a functional building where utilitarian considerations of the building took precedence over aesthetics.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1980, June 1985, December 2007.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on Bastion Square, overlooking the waterfront area at James Bay in Victoria, British Columbia;
- its rectangular plan and solid three-storey massing with a flat roof;
- the horizontal emphasis expressed through its rectangular massing accented by stringcourses and heavy cornicing;
- its original entrance contained within a set of triple arches elaborated with voussoirs;
- its eclectic architectural style as evidenced in its irregular fenestration consisting of large, deep windows, some with circular capping and others massive and square, its heavy cornicing, crenellations, double four-tiered towers flanking the arched entrance on the south façade, and its circular capped towers at each corner of the east façade;
- its three-foot thick stone basement walls, and its brick-clad, concrete sheathed exterior partially grooved to simulate stonework which contribute to the building’s solidity;
- any remaining elements of the original interior;
- viewscapes from the former courthouse to the waterfront, and vice versa.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1981/11/13

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1898/01/01 to 1901/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions
Governing Canada
Security and Law
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum

Historic

Government
Courthouse and/or Registry Office

Architect / Designer

Herman Otto Tiedeman

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

108

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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