FORT SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM
Fort Saskatchewan Old Court House
Fort Saskatchewan Courthouse
Fort Saskatchewan Court House
Old Court House
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Fort Saskatchewan Museum is an early twentieth century, one and one- half storey brick building situated on a large lot in downtown Fort Saskatchewan that overlooks the North Saskatchewan River valley. Constructed in 1909 to serve as a courthouse, the building features a hipped roof, Romanesque brickwork arches over the door and window openings of the first floor, and sandstone sills and keystones.
The heritage value of the former courthouse, now the Fort Saskatchewan Museum, lies in its association with the establishment of legal institutions in the province and in its subdued Edwardian Classical Revival architecture.
The Fort Saskatchewan Museum provides a structural reminder of the city's long tradition of administering law and justice. This heritage began with the North West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.), which built a post at Fort Saskatchewan in 1875 - the first in Northern Alberta - and established the force's "G" Division headquarters here following the North West Rebellion in 1885. The policing and judicial facilities at the N.W.M.P. post served a growing population through the end of the nineteenth century, with the growth of settlement in the area during the 1880s and 1890s helping to develop Fort Saskatchewan into a local distribution centre. The arrival of the Canadian Northern Railway (C.Nor.R.) in 1905, the creation of the Province of Alberta, and the continued influx of settlers suggested the need to replace the N.W.M.P. court facilities with a more spacious, more suitable space for the adjudication of regional and local cases. The Fort Saskatchewan Museum was originally a courthouse, constructed in 1909 as part of the government's ambitious program to develop the administrative and legal infrastructure of Alberta shortly after the province's creation. The courthouse originally heard both the criminal proceedings of prisoners from the Provincial Gaol built in the town in the mid-1910s and the disputes and issues of the local citizenry. The main floor also served as a residence for a member of the Alberta Provincial Police. In later years, local cases began to be heard in the Town Hall and the Fire Hall. By the 1960s, a newly renovated Town Hall had become the venue for all court cases in the town and the courthouse served strictly as a residence for the Bursar of the Provincial Gaol. Since the early 1970s, the building has been used as a historical site and museum.
The Fort Saskatchewan Museum features a subdued Edwardian Classical Revival architectural design, a departure from the more ornate courthouse constructions of Provincial Architect A.M. Jeffers. A key figure in the design of early provincial buildings, Jeffers incorporated Classical forms and ideals into his many public constructions, including courthouses at Wetaskiwin, Lethbridge, and Edmonton. The Fort Saskatchewan Museum represents a departure from the typical design of Jeffers' work, emphasizing simplicity over embellishment, basic forms over Classical decoration. Planned and executed in just over half a year - perhaps because of political pressure - the building seems to have been a harried construction, with rapidity and economy taking precedence over meticulousness and aesthetics. Though far less ornate than his other buildings, the Fort Saskatchewan Museum nonetheless expresses Jeffers' Edwardian Classical Revival sensibilities in its symmetrical facade and Romanesque architraves. Many of the materials employed in the construction of this building - including the brick upper walls, fieldstone foundation, fieldstone basement walls, and exterior sandstone elements - were obtained locally. The building retains a high degree of interior and exterior integrity.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 566)
The character-defining elements of the Fort Saskatchewan Museum include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- bell cast hipped roof with corbelled chimney;
- brick facade featuring brick Romanesque architraves with sandstone keystones around door and window openings, brick and sandstone stringcourses above first storey, and rusticated sandstone stringcourse above foundation;
- rusticated fieldstone foundation;
- rusticated fieldstone bases for exterior staircases;
- double central door;
- fenestration pattern and style, including double-hung wooden sash windows;
- original interior elements, including plaster walls and ceilings, doors, window trim, and baseboards;
- original court features on second floor, including layout, furnishings and artifacts.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
1909/01/01 to 1959/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Security and Law
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 566)
Cross-Reference to Collection