Home / Accueil

Nanaimo Court House

35 Front Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia, V9R, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2002/10/07

Exterior view of the Nanaimo Court House, 2004; City of Nanaimo, Christine Meutzner, 2004
Front Elevation
Exterior (night) view of the Nanaimo Court House, 1970; Nanaimo Community Archives, Nanaimo Daily News Fonds, Photo No. 2001 001 A-P55
Front Elevation
Exterior view of the Nanaimo Court House, ca. 1915; Nanaimo Community Archives, Post Card Collection, Photo No. 1995 021 A-PC5
Front Elevation

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1895/01/01 to 1896/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/07/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Nanaimo Courthouse is a two storey Richardsonian Romanesque style building located on the only downtown thoroughfare that runs parallel to the waterfront. The historic place comprises the building and grounds.

Heritage Value

Built from 1895 to 1896, the Nanaimo Court House is a very striking and superior example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, which was favoured for major public buildings of this period. The building features the rough-dressed masonry and prominent round arched openings typical of this style. The picturesque roofline is highlighted with a slate covering and intricate copper ornamentation. A plain 1957 addition at the rear of the building does not actively infringe on the original building's character. This exceptional building marks the height of the architectural grandeur of the Late Victorian era.

The Nanaimo Court House is significant because of its association with Francis Mawson Rattenbury, British Columbia's premier institutional architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rattenbury also designed the Nanaimo and Nelson Court Houses, the provincial Parliament Buildings and numerous other residential and institutional buildings. This building, and the Nelson Court House, represented a continuation of Rattenbury's interest in the picturesque eclecticism of the Late Victorian era.

The Court House's location on a major street facing the waterfront and its height and substantial mass make it a very prominent landmark.

The Nanaimo Court House is the premier symbol of early provincial government presence in Nanaimo. Replacing an earlier wooden Court House, this expensive and sophisticated building projected provincial authority and power and, at the same time, signaled Nanaimo's nascent function as a regional centre.

The Nanaimo Court House is significant because of its siting on the lot. The mid-block location was an unusual choice, as most courthouses were given a prominent corner location. To increase the formality of the design and the presence of the building, the building is set to the rear of the sloping site. This position allowed for a gracious landscaped plaza at the front.

Source: City of Nanaimo, Development Services Department, file #6800-20-H01-02/35 Front Street

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements of the Nanaimo Courthouse include:

-all of the elements of the original Richardsonian Romanesque style as expressed in the monumental scale, symmetrical facade, rough dressed Sandstone exterior bearing walls, granite foundation blocks, corner towers with high bellcast pyramidal roofs, large arched central entry, decorated keystones, slate roof with copper flashing and ridge ornamentation, elaborate leaded, stained and painted glass windows and complicated and picturesque roofline

-all of the elements of the 1957 addition as expressed in the simple form and massing and minimal ornamentation.

-the building's location, within a grouping of historic buildings, on a major street facing the waterfront

-the spatial configuration of the building and front plaza.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1957/01/01 to 1957/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Security and Law

Function - Category and Type



Courthouse and/or Registry Office

Architect / Designer

F.M. Rattenbury



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Nanaimo, Development Services Department, file #6800-20-H01-02/35 Front Street

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places



Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places