Description of Historic Place
Located at 51-53 Zina Street, the Dufferin County Court House is situated between Louisa and Clara streets in a historic residential area of Orangeville. The three-storey brick courthouse, constructed in 1880-81, is designed in the eclectic High Victorian style of architecture. Attached to the rear of the courthouse is a grey limestone jail complex and red brick Governor's Residence of the same date which, have been renovated as county administrative offices. A separate one-storey, brick building known as the Old Registry Office, also built in 1880-81, occupies the north-east corner of the property.
The exteriors of these buildings and select interior elements of the courthouse, as well as the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1992). The property is also designated by the Town of Orangeville under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw #59-89) in 1989.
Located between Louisa and Clara streets, the property occupies part of a block that was comprised entirely of county buildings. With frontage on three sides, the courthouse is a highly visible landmark in the area. The significant setback from the street, broad lawn and mature plantings contribute to the grand and prominent character of the courthouse.
The Dufferin County Court House has been associated with the judicial, administrative and government functions of Dufferin County since 1881. The courthouse reflects the establishment of Dufferin County, prior to which the area was part of Simcoe, Grey and Wellington counties. The completion of the courthouse, which contained the municipal offices and the attached jail complex, satisfied the requirement for the county's provisional status to be extended to full county status, in 1881, and solidified Orangeville's status as the county seat. The ground floor of the building was divided into offices for county officials with numerous vaults for the safekeeping of county records. The upper floors of the building contained the judge's chambers, jury room and court room, which also served as the meeting room for the county council.
Attached to the rear of the courthouse was the red-brick Governor's Residence which housed the jail's top official and formed a connection to the 22-cell Gaol House and its walled yard. The jail was notable for having frequently housed indigent and mentally disabled members of the county due to the lack of an alternative facility, until the 1930s. Both the Governor's Residence and the jail complex, functioned in their original capacity until 1978. In a separate building, to the west of the courthouse is the Old Registry Office (1880-81), which originally housed all land ownership records for Dufferin County.
The Dufferin County Court House is of eclectic High Victorian design, combining elements of both the Second Empire and Romanesque styles. Rounded arch doorways, round-headed windows, flared pier capitals and a corbelled frieze align the courthouse with the Romanesque style, while the tower roof is characteristically Second Empire in appearance. Further distinguishing the structure is an exuberant dichromatic scheme of buff and red coloured brickwork with a polychromatic slate roof and decorative iron cresting, surviving as increasingly rare examples of Victorian detailing. The building's interior retains its lofty court room with upper storey gallery fronted by an intricate iron balustrade. Also highlighting the interior is a curved oak staircase with a balustrade of black walnut and chesswood.
Linked to the main structure is the former jail complex and Governor's Residence, which were redeveloped as county administrative offices in 1986. The limestone walls of the jailhouse exterior and the six-metre high battened walls of the jail yard have been retained and incorporated into the design. The limestone used in the construction of the jail was obtained locally from the Wright Brothers Quarry in Caledon Township, about 5 kilometres away. Responsible for the design of the courthouse, Governor's Residence and jail compex was Guelph architect Cornelius J. Soule, who was also commissioned for the Wentworth County Court House (1879) in Hamilton and Orangeville's Westminster United Church (1878). Guelph contractors, Dobbie and Grierson were in charge of construction.
The Old Registry Office's design compliments the courthouse with a modest Romanesque exterior. Built by Orangeville builders Robert Hewitt and Hugh Haley, the building features red brick cladding, stone detailing and round headed windows and was based on plans provided by the Ontario Department of Public Works. Built to be fireproof, rooms with vaulted ceilings are entirely composed of brick, which contributed to the safekeeping of county records.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Dufferin County Court House include its:
- symmetrical plan with a three-storey central section, flanked by two-storey wings and a two-storey rear extension to the former jail complex
- red-brick construction with contrasting buff-brick detailing comprising the window heads, pier capitals, corbelled frieze, patterned belt course and decorative brickwork panels
- sandstone detailing comprising of string courses and front doorway surrounds
- hip roof with lower cross gables on the building's central section and hip roofs on the two-storey section with closed tongue-and-groove eaves
- polychromatic and patterned slate roofing
- central tower with mansard roof and blind dormer windows;
- decorative iron cresting surmounting the tower, tower dormers and the ridge of the main roof
- six, tall corbelled chimneys
- round headed two-over-two windows with wooden sashes and transom lights
- two front doorways with double doors and fanlight transoms
- irregularly coursed limestone walls of the former jail house with rectangular windows cased by stone blocks
- wooden rooftop monitor of the former jail house
- six-metre high, limestone walls of the former jail yard with stone cased openings, battens and quoins
- rectangular, three-bay, brick, Old Registry Office with slate, side-gable roof, red-brick cladding, round headed windows, stone detailed window heads and sills, two double-shaft chimneys, regularly coursed limestone foundation, and a front porch with corbelled parapet and round headed doorway
- court room, with its lofty open character, coved and cross beam ceiling, upper level gallery with iron balustrade and walnut rail, elaborately turned gallery supports, vertical board tongue-and-groove wainscoting and niche with stencilled Royal coat of arms
- stairwell with pressed tin ceiling, plaster cornice and open, curved, oak staircase with a large black walnut newel post, black walnut handrail, turned chesswood balusters and decorative stir ends
- location on a block comprised entirely of county government buildings
- street frontage on three sides
- significant setback from the street, fronted by a broad lawn and plantings of a considerable age