Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Manitoba Law Courts Through the Ages



The First Court House

Prior to becoming a province, justice in the area which would become Manitoba was carried through by the Governor and Council of the Hudson's Bay Company. By 1836, their law court was built at Lower Fort Garry, the area known as the Red River Settlement was divided into four judicial districts. Each district had a magistrate or justice of the peace. In 1864, a resolution was passed declaring the the General Court should be regulated by the Laws of England.

When the Province of Manitoba was formed in 1870, Winnipeg was still only a town; however, it was the largest town. Therefore, following the creation of the Court of Queen's Bench Winnipeg became part of the provincial judicial structure and so required a courthouse. The first courthouse was housed in an adapted former store building at 494 Main Street, in 1870 (now the entrance way to Old Market Square).  A large addition was created in 1873 which was in fact larger than the actual original building. This location was used for the courthouse until 1881, and was demolished three years later in 1884.

The 1882 Law Courts

The Manitoba Law Courts then moved to their first Kennedy Street location. This much larger building was finished in 1882. Designed by Winnipeg based English architect C. Osborne Wickenden; it was the largest and most ornate structure built in Manitoba at the time for its purpose seeing as Winnipeg was the chief population point.
The Kennedy location was deemed poorly laid out and overcrowded less than ten years after it was completed. Trials were frequently being postponed because all courtrooms were occupied and so a new addition was required. Designed by architect Charles H. Wheeler the new 1893-94 addition was twice the size as the old section. The building with the addition is pictured below, the far right is the original Wickenden wing, the much larger section to the left is the addition by Wheeler.
The 1882, Kennedy Street location of the Manitoba Law Courts
From the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections

1916 Building

The Kennedy Street location was replaced by the current Law Courts building at 391 Broadway Avenue. The new building was designed originally by provincial architect Samuel Hooper in 1904; however, he was succeeded by his assistant provincial architect V.W. Horwood when he died in 1911.

Scandals surrounding the Department of Public Works (DPW) were occurring in the midst of the 1916 Law courts being built. The main issue was the costs of having provincial architects and the political regime's sponsoring the design and construction of all the new court houses and government buildings being built. Hooper and Horwood were both provincial architects employed through the DPW. Because of all the scandals Horwood was led into early retirement and the provincial architects office was abolished when the entire DPW was reorganized. These changes effectively rendered the 1916 Manitoba Law Courts building, the peak of grand judicial architecture. Moreover very few public buildings were created between 1918 and the 1950's.

Horwood was replaced by John D. Atchison, and he oversaw the construction until the building was completed in 1916. The 1912 building permit estimated the cost at $1 million, but an addition was built in 1914 at a cost of $155,000. 
Section facing Broadway Street

Section of the current Law Courts Building facing Kennedy Street

What Happened to the 1882 Building?


No longer used as the home of the Law Courts, the building was used for many different purposes. One of its last tenants was the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law. The Kennedy building was eventually demolished in 1965, and the University of Manitoba’s Robson Hall building, was completed in 1969 to permanently house the faculty.
Blind Justice, a stained glass window originally in the 1882 Court house, is now incorporated in
the Faculty of Law Building at the University of Manitoba.
The Kennedy building had a stained glass window executed by Robert Bell of Winnipeg and Robert McCausland Co. of Toronto which had been completed in 1893. The window represented Blind Justice and had been installed in the main staircase of the 1882 Law Courts Building. When the building was demolished the stained glass window was kept intact and presented to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law by the Government of Manitoba in 1970.


1983 Addition 

The 1916 Law Courts got a $15.5 million upgrade between 1983 and 1987; built by Kraft Construction. This addition added an extra five floors, including twenty two courtrooms used for the Provincial Court of Manitoba. The older 1916 building is comprised of three floors used primarily for the Queen's Bench Court.

The 1983 addition consists of five floors and houses the court offices and registries of the Court of Appeal, the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court;  offices of court administration and court clerks are located on the second floor; courtrooms primarily used by the Provincial Court of Manitoba, as well as Sheriff Services offices and the Sheriff Lock-Up for in-custody accused persons making appearances in the court complex.  On the fifth floor are the chambers for the Provincial Court Judges. The older building also houses the Court of Appeal and the law courts library, known as the Great Library.

1983 Addition


The Great Library

Housed in the older, 1916 section of the current Law Courts building, the Great Library is the second largest of its kind in Manitoba, only the E.K. Williams Law Library at the University of Manitoba overshadows it. When it was originally built the library had stained glass skylights and cork flooring to muffle sound, both of these design elements have since been replaced.

Courtroom 210

Courtroom 210 is used along with four other courtrooms for the Court of Queen's Bench which is the superior trial court of Manitoba. This court has jurisdiction to hear both criminal and civil cases. This courtroom draws on many Greek and Roman architectural ideas. A prime example of the Roman influence is found above the Tuscan columns where one can see the Lictor Fasces. A lictor was an officer or guard who carried the fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of the unity and power or authority of Roman magistrates (ancient Roman judges).





Sources:
Carter, Margaret. Early Canadian Court Houses. National Historic Parks and Sites Branch: Parks Canada. p.d. 1983. p.149 -151

http://www.virtual.heritagewinnipeg.com/vignettes/vignettes_120W.htm#
http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=12789&pid=0

“From Rural Parkland to Urban Centre: One Hundred Years of Growth at the University of Manitoba, 1877 to 1977” published by Hyperion Press for the University of Manitoba (1978) as a University of Manitoba Centennial Project.

http://www.manitobacourts.mb.ca/general-information/history-of-the-courts/