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Saint John County Court House National Historic Site of Canada

20 Sydney Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1974/05/18

Corner view of the façade of the Saint John County Court House, showing the main entrance, 1980.; Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1980.
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Other Name(s)

Saint John County Court House National Historic Site of Canada
Saint John County Court House
Palais de justice du comté de Saint John
St. John County Courthouse

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1826/01/01 to 1829/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/06/11

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Saint John County Court House is a three-storey, stone building built from 1826 to 1829 in the Neoclassical style. It is located in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick, in an urban area of 19th-century buildings. The Court House is set on high ground on a corner lot, with the gaol behind. Across the street are the Loyalist Burial Grounds and a treed, city square known as King Square. The formal recognition consists of the building on its legal property.

Heritage Value

Saint John County Court House was designated a national historic site in 1974 because it is representative of the judicial institution in New Brunswick; and, with its conscious arrangement of classical details, the building creates an impression of order and grandeur.

The Saint John County Court House was built in 1826-9 to provide courtrooms and office space for the Supreme Court and the Court of Quarter Sessions. It also contained a Council Chamber for sittings of City Council. Today, it contains the Office of the Sheriff/Coroner and is used for sessions of the Court of Queen's Bench and Provincial Court as needed.

In its materials, form, composition and detailing, the Court House is typical of early-19th-century, British, public buildings in Canada. Its Neoclassical style imparts an air of sobriety and sophistication appropriate to its role as a court house. The Court House is distinguished by its free-standing, circular, interior staircase, with cantilevered stone steps rising three storeys in height without other means of support. Originally designed by local architect John Cunningham, the Court House was renovated in 1924 under the supervision of architect Garnet Wilson, following a devastating 1919 fire.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1974.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Saint John County Court House include:

- its Neoclassically inspired design, including the rectangular massing with low-pitched, hipped roof, the balanced, symmetrical composition with regularly placed openings, and classical detailing;
- the seven-bay, three-storey façade with slightly projecting, three-bay central pavilion with its classical detailing, including giant fluted pilasters supporting an entablature and pediment, its multi-pane double-hung windows in reducing size and with relieving arches on the ground storey;
- exterior detailing added in 1924, including the round-arched entrance door; and the small central lantern;
- its high quality stone exterior, built of cut, squared stone with rusticated ground storey;
- the interior, circular stone staircase, with its three-storey height, freestanding, cantilevered design, and wrought-iron railing in a Neoclassical geometrical pattern;
- surviving interior detailing dating to the 1924 restoration, including marble floor and wainscotting in the lobby, heavily moulded door and window trim, and giant pilasters;
- its setting beside other 19th-century buildings and facing King's Square.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1924/01/01 to 1925/01/01
1860/01/01 to 1860/01/01
1919/01/01 to 1919/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Governing Canada
Security and Law

Function - Category and Type



Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Town or City Hall

Architect / Designer

John Cunningham


Robert Barbour

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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