Description of Historic Place
The Welland Court House is located at 102 East Main Street, on the corner of East Main Street and Cross Street, in downtown Welland. It is a striking three storey building of Queenston limestone that was constructed in 1855-1856.
The property was designated for its heritage value under the City of Welland By-law 7951.
Located at the corner of East Main Street and Cross Street, the building has become a landmark in downtown Welland and is highly accessible from various points. The Court House is situated across from City Hall, establishing this corner as an area of great civic importance. Its front façade faces the Welland Canal and East Main Street Bridge, two major components of the City of Welland's identity. As a building that was initially erected to house the County's new judicial facilities, it served as a focal point for communities within Welland County, establishing links that contributed to the development of Welland and the surrounding area.
After detaching itself from Lincoln County in 1851, the community vied for the right to host the new Welland County's headquarters, recognizing the commercial and political advantage of such an opportunity. In 1854, largely due to the influence of Warden John Frazer, Merrittsville (later to be renamed Welland) was granted the headquarters. Built at a cost of over $100,000, the Welland Court House was intended to house the county's new judicial facilities. It also solidified a positive outlook for Welland, as the community began to quickly grow and prosper, soon overshadowing rival communities such as Port Robinson, Fonthill and Cooks Mills.
The building's jail has held numerous prisoners, with justice being dispensed from the courtrooms for roughly 150 years. On several occasions between 1859 and 1956, offenders have paid the ultimate penalty for their deed upon the gallows constructed in the jail yard. It is noted that these gallows were the site of the last hanging in Canada. The Court House has endured various hardships over the years, including a serious fire that ravaged the interior of the building in 1913 and threats of demolition. Currently housed at the Court House are both the Superior and Ontario Courts of Justice, as well as the office of the Crown Attorney; the building continues to stand as a civic landmark and state of the art facility.
The Welland Court House, built in 1855-1856 using Queenston limestone, was designed by Kivas Tully, one of Canada's leading architects, particularly noted for the pleasing proportions found in all the Ontario Court Houses he designed. Combining Neo-Classical and Palladian styles, and three storeys in height, the building's front façade is dominated by a monumental pediment which is supported by four Ionic columns that rise from the second storey porch, which is accessed by twin side staircases.
The main entranceway is topped by a stone tablet and flanked by windows which have curved pediments. The variety in window pediments and mouldings between the three storeys is rare in Welland. A decorative frieze provides a base for the low hip roof which features two cupolas. Originally two small cupolas sat on either side of a large octagonal cupola which was capped by a domed roof. The Court House's pleasing proportions and symmetrical façade illustrate a style and grandeur of architecture which is unique to Welland.
Sources: "Welland Court House", Nora Reid, Heritage Welland Committee, City of Welland; Welland County Law Association, 2007; "Original Court House Was Constructed in 1856", Evening Tribune, May 26, 1973; The City of Welland By-law 7951.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Welland Court House include its:
- Queenston limestone construction
- jail yard
- monumental pediment with four Ionic columns, twin staircases
- main entranceway with stone tablets
- windows with curved pediments
- low hip roof with decorative frieze
- two small cupolas
- projecting pediments and brackets over all of the windows on the second floor
- windows found on the third level, trimmed by a stone moulding with eared blocks and keystones
- continuous sills underscoring both the second and third floor structural openings
- location at the highly accessible corner of East Main Street and Cross Street
- situation in Welland's downtown, across from City Hall, establishing the area as a site of civic importance
- orientation facing the Welland Canal and East Main Street Bridge, two important aspects of Welland's collective identity