Frontenac County Court House and Registry Office
Frontenac County Courthouse
Links and documents
1855/01/01 to 1858/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Frontenac County Courthouse and Registry Office are located at 1 Court Street adjacent to the Queen's University campus in Kingston Ontario. The stone buildings sit on a triangular parcel of land bounded by Barrie Street to the west, Court Street to the south and West Street to the east.
The exterior of the structures and surrounding property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Kingston under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 27-1988) and is a National Historic Site.
The County Courthouse faces south and sits at the top of a gentle incline, overlooking a city park and to the lakefront beyond. The property is situated within an institutional area at the northeast edge of the Queen's University campus and is within close proximity to the Public Library and Kingston City Hall. A generous lawn fronts the courthouse with large deciduous trees framing the building. A low stone staircase leads to the ornate fountain that sits directly in front of the main entrance and a circular drive encloses both. The County Registry Office also fronts onto Court Street and sits directly to the east of the courthouse. A walkway links the registry building to the east entrance of the courthouse.
The Frontenac County Courthouse is representative of the development of judicial administration in 19th century Ontario and with the growth of Kingston. In 1840, Upper and Lower Canada were combined to create The United Province of Canada. Kingston became the first capital of the new province in 1841 and was incorporated as a city in 1846. The original 1796 courthouse and jail became too small to meet the demands of the growing population and were sold. Contracts were let for a new courthouse to be built on land obtained from the Province in 1855. Limestone for the structure was quarried on the site. The new building, designed by Edward Horsey, served the United Counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (Kingston is now located within Frontenac County), and the first court session was held in 1858. Construction then began on a new jail and jailer's house located directly behind the courthouse.
After a major fire damaged the courthouse in 1874, architect John Power oversaw its reconstruction and designed a new registry office. It was built immediately to the east of the larger courthouse building to alleviate crowding within the courthouse. Although the building suffered another fire in 1931 and extensive interior renovations in 1965, the original exterior remains intact.
The Classical Revival courthouse was modelled in some measure on George Brown's Neoclassical Kingston City Hall of 1842-44. The courthouse consists of a three-storey block flanked symmetrically by two-storey wings which end in pedimented pavilions. The principal entrance is sheltered by a double-storey Ionic portico, complete with frieze, cornice, coffered ceiling and a tympanum that displays the Royal Coat of Arms. Diminished and responsive pediments crown the end pavilions on their three sides as well as the central bay on the rear of the building. A central ribbed dome, redesigned after the 1874 fire, sits on a drum lit by 16 arched windows framed by pilasters and crowned with moulded arches and keystones. The lantern above has six semi-circular arches and attached columns repeating the dome details below and is surmounted by a flagpole. Cupolas with octagonal drums and ribbed domes were also added to the end pavilions at this time. The ashlar surface of the front facade contrasts with the hammer-dressed stone on the rear. The second-storey windows are taller than those of the ground floor, offering greater light to the large courtroom spaces of the original second floor plan.
The Registry Office building has hammer-dressed limestone ashlar walls and classical details and was built to provincial design and specifications in 1874. An addition was added to its west elevation facing the courthouse in 1964-66.
Sources: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Frontenac County Courthouse and Registry Office include its:
- locally quarried limestone for the courthouse
- Classical Revival style that creates a bold and well-proportioned exterior
- two-storey portico with Ionic columns, a frieze, cornice and a coffered ceiling that frames and covers the main entrance
- carved stone Royal Coat of Arms that decorates the central pediment
- two-storey wings with pediments that flank the central three-storey block
- central, ribbed dome that rises from the third storey and sits on a drum lit by 16 arched windows that is topped by a lantern which repeats the details of the dome
- central dome that is clad in what appear to be the original 1874 tin shingles
- subsidiary cupolas that decorate the side wings of the building which consist of octagonal drums with ribbed domes
- diminished pediments of the side wings that echo the central pediment
- smooth ashlar surface of the front façade that contrasts with the hammer-dressed stone on the rear of the structure
- lighter stone quoins that decorate the projecting corners of the east and west wings
- front façade windows that have continuous masonry surrounds
- triple-arched windows that appear on the wing facades
- second-storey windows that are taller than those on the ground floor so that the large interior court room spaces could be well lit
- location on a gentle incline that overlooks parkland and the lakefront beyond
- location within a historical and institutional neighbourhood of the city and adjacent to Queen's University Campus
- large, ornate cast iron fountain that graces the front entrance of the Courthouse
- circular driveway that encircles the fountain area
- large site that includes a generous approach and accommodates service entrances and parking facilities at the rear of the main building
- Registry Office location that is immediately next door to the courthouse
Ontario Heritage Trust
Ontario Heritage Act
Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement
1964/01/01 to 1966/01/01
1965/01/01 to 1965/01/01
1874/01/01 to 1874/01/01
1931/01/01 to 1931/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Government and Institutions
Function - Category and Type
- Office or office building
- Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Conservation Easement Files
Ontario Heritage Trust
10 Adelaide Street East
Cross-Reference to Collection