Elgin County Courthouse officially complete

ST. THOMAS, ON, March 18, 2014 /CNW/ - Construction of the Elgin County Courthouse is complete, improving justice services for local residents.

Attorney General John Gerretsen was joined by David Marr, Warden of Elgin County, Heather Jackson, Mayor of St. Thomas, and other local dignitaries at a ribbon cutting ceremony today to mark the completion of the project.

The courthouse – known as the St. Thomas Consolidated Courthouse during the construction phase – is located on Wellington Street on the site of the historic Elgin County Courthouse. The new courthouse consolidates the Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice, which previously operated in separate locations. The three-storey building has eight courtrooms and three conference/settlement rooms.

Many of the heritage features of the courthouse, including its east, north and west elevations, dome and copper roof, and masonry and sculptural detailing, were conserved and restored.

A new, modern addition connects the restored heritage courthouse with the former Land Registry Office creating a modern courthouse complex with state-of-the-art technology, security, energy efficiency and barrier-free accessibility.

Construction of the new courthouse began in June 2011. At the peak of construction, there were more than 250 construction workers on site daily.

Over the coming weeks, staff and stakeholders will move into the new courthouse, which is expected to be fully operational on March 24, 2014.

The renewal of the Elgin County Courthouse exemplifies the Province of Ontario's commitment to preserving heritage buildings through adaptive reuse, restoration and expansion, and embodies a modern judicial system rooted in tradition. 

Infrastructure investments like the Elgin County Courthouse are part of the government's economic plan that is creating jobs for today and tomorrow.

Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown agency of the Province of Ontario that delivers large, complex infrastructure renewal projects on time and on budget. Over the last six years, the province has applied Infrastructure Ontario's Alternative Financing and Procurement model to 83 major projects valued at approximately $38 billion, saving taxpayers an estimated $3 billion. Infrastructure Ontario also manages one of the largest real estate portfolios in Canada, provides municipalities and eligible public sector clients with financing to renew public infrastructure, and leverages its private-sector expertise to manage major commercial transactions on behalf of the province.

Visit www.infrastructureontario.ca for more information.


Hon. John Gerretsen, Attorney General
"For over a century and a half, the Elgin County Courthouse has stood as a St. Thomas landmark. Its restoration and renovation as part of the new consolidated courthouse will preserve its stature in the community for many years to come."

Disponible en français


The Elgin County Courthouse, a St. Thomas Landmark

The Elgin County Courthouse was one of the earliest county courthouses built in Ontario and has been a St. Thomas landmark for more than 150 years.

The courthouse is a prominent example of the combined courthouse, jail and county buildings erected by counties across Canada West before Confederation. At the time, these complexes were a requirement to achieve full county status.

Built in 1852-53 by architect John Turner, the original courthouse was a three-storey, domed Palladian-style building constructed of stone and yellow brick. Gutted by fire in 1898, the courthouse was rebuilt and expanded the following year with the addition of flanking wings, entrance porches, a copper roofed dome and new interior finishes.

The courthouse was the home of Elgin County's Superior Court until it was relocated in 2010 to allow for construction of the new, consolidated courthouse.

The former Land Registry Office, originally built in 1874 (with additions in 1880 and 1909) is representative of the post-Confederation standardization of registry offices by the Province of Ontario. Plans and specifications for a standard registry office were prepared by Ontario's Chief Architect's Office and distributed to county councils. The standard plans incorporated architectural features designed to keep county land records safe by preventing fire and flood and discouraging theft. This one-storey, yellow-brick building with gabled wings, round-arched openings and barrel-vaulted interior spaces is among the earliest built to the 1868 standardized plan.

The Land Registry Office is the new home of the Elgin County Law Association in the restored and expanded courthouse.

The interiors of the historic buildings have been extensively refurbished while retaining most of their exterior facades. Existing heritage features of the two buildings, including the copper roofed dome, original furniture and fittings, decorative plaster work, stained glass, wainscoting and window trim have been preserved and incorporated into the new design.

When the restored and expanded courthouse opens for business on March 24, 2014, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in a 160-year tradition of justice administration in Elgin County.


Time Capsule at New Elgin County Courthouse to be Opened in 2102

On March 18, 2014, a 6x6x12 inch steel cylinder will be placed in the historic cornerstone of the Elgin County Courthouse. Inside the time capsule will be mementos from the City of St. Thomas, Elgin County and the local justice community. The key to the time capsule will lie next to it, to be used to open the capsule 88 years from now, in 2102.  

In 1852, during construction of the original courthouse, another time capsule was buried in the same location.

During early construction work at the new Elgin County Courthouse, community members informed Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of the Attorney General that a time capsule might be located behind the cornerstone in the basement of the original courthouse.

In June 2012, representatives from the province, the construction team and members from the community with an interest in local history, were on site for the removal of the contents of the cornerstone along with a professional conservator, to ensure that any materials found were handled and stored correctly.

But the group found only a glass apothecary jar and separate lid. There was some minor tinting and some residue within the jar, but no historical objects were found.

As part of celebrations to mark the completion of the restoration and expansion of the courthouse, this new time capsule is being inserted into the historic cornerstone on March 18, 2014. Here is a list of the contents of the capsule and the contributors.

City of St. Thomas

A metal disk that comes apart, like a puzzle, with each piece representing an aspect of the city.


Local Justice Community


Metal lapel pins from:

  • Legal Aid Ontario
  • Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association
  • Province of Ontario
  • OPP
  • Aylmer Police
  • St. Thomas Police Service.

An engraved pen from the Victim/Witness Assistance Program.


Crests of the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice.


County of Elgin

A scroll in permanent ink and on archival paper documenting County Council's long history with the courthouse, beginning with the first tender in 1852. The scroll will include the County's logo and traditional crest, along with a list of the current members of Elgin County Council and members of the time capsule committee.


One copy of Courthouses of a Century. The book, originally published in 1901, provides details on the construction of the original courthouse.

EllisDon Corporation

The time capsule itself. The exterior of the capsule will be engraved to document the contribution by EllisDon, the construction company building the courthouse.

Finally, the time capsule committee agreed that a 2013 penny should be included since the coin was discontinued in that year.

All items and their significance will be documented in a memory book, a copy of which will be kept in an exhibit case at the courthouse. A second copy will be kept at the Elgin County Archives and a digital version will be posted on the County's website.

Members agreed that the capsule should be opened in the year 2102, 250 years from the creation of the first time capsule in 1852.

Artifact display cases in the new courthouse will include information prepared by the Elgin County Museum about the original Masonic ceremony and a recreation of the items known to have been placed in the original time capsule in 1852.

The Time Capsule Committee

  • Brian Masschaele (Chair), Director of Community and Cultural Services, County of Elgin
  • Wendell Graves, Chief Administrative Officer, City of St. Thomas
  • Mike Baker, Curator, Elgin County Museum
  • Carol Bradley, Business Support Analyst, Ministry of the Attorney General, St. Thomas
  • Melissa Kirby, Administrative Assistant, Ministry of the Attorney General, St. Thomas
  • Frank Dieterman, Manager, Heritage Projects, Infrastructure Ontario
  • Mike Lang, Senior Project Manager, EIIisDon Corporation
  • Steve Peters, citizen appointee, former mayor of St. Thomas and MPP

SOURCE: Infrastructure Ontario

For further information: Tom Boreskie, Infrastructure Ontario, 416-212-6447; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney General, Communications Branch, 416-326-2210

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