Nanaimo Court House
35 Front Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia, V9R, Canada
Links and documents
1895/01/01 to 1896/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
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.
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 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.
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
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
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Nanaimo, Development Services Department, file #6800-20-H01-02/35 Front Street
Cross-Reference to Collection