Thursday, October 05, 2006


This week I started volunteering for the City of Kingston Department of Culture researching and preparing historical reports on the city's many heritage buildings. My first assignment is one of the most prominent heritage properties in the city, and is also a national historic site, the Frontenac County Court House.

I will periodically post updates to this project as it progresses. For now, I have only the basic information on the court house, but hopefully some archival research will turn up some interesting stories or details.


1855: The growing county of Frontenac, Lennox and Addignton required greater space for the administration of justice and government. Queen Victoria granted a piece of land to the county and construction of the court house began under the direction of architect Edward Horsey.

1858: Construction of the court house was completed. The first session was held on the 2nd of November.

1865: Frontenac County Council began sharing space in the court house for administration and council sessions.

1875: A fire from one of the building's individual wood stoves got out of control. The resulting fire destroyed the wood interior of the building, but the limestone exterior remianed intact; the impressive portico was completely undamaged.

1876: The court house was re-built by Architect Power and Son. A central heating system was added, along with a re-done dome at the top of the building, one of the court house's principal heritage architectural features (visible in the picture above.)

1903: The large fountain (also pictured above) was added in honour of Sir George Airey Kirkpatrick, prominent Kingston lawyer, militia officer, businessman, and MP in the caucus of Sir John A. Macdonald.

1931: The interior of the east wing of the court house was again almost completely destroyed by fire. Architect Colin Drever re-built the interior on plans from the original construction and made a small addition to the rear of the building.

1986: The court house was declared a national historic site.

1996: The city acquired the courthouse from the county of Frontenac in an agreement over municipal amalgamation.

1999: Issues arose related to the ownership and upkeep of the courthouse. While the city owns the building it is leased by the province for the administration of justice. The city does not like the costs of owning the building while not using it. Queen's university offered to purchase the courthouse planning to make it the centre of its business school. In the face of public pressure from the Frontenac Law Association and factions of the Kingston community opposed to Queen's ownership, Kingston city council dithered and Queen's withdrew its offer.

Potential for interesting stories:

The original construction of the court house included a gaol in the rear where prisoners were held and executed in the 19th century.

More to come as research progresses.

*The photo above is from the Archives of Ontario digitial image collection. It is specifically from the Marsden Kemp collection and dates from c.1904-1920.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:20 a.m.

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I'm glad that you will be posting about the heritage property projects that you're working on. I think I need to start volunteering for the Markham planning department soon too.

I did want to add that if you take the Kingston Haunted Walk, they will tell a story about a ghost that hangs around the back of the courthouse where the gaol used to be (or still is, but used now by the Red Cross or something, I don't remember exactly).

Posted by Blogger blackhole @ October 06, 2006 2:40 a.m. #

The building currently behind the courthouse and leased by the Red Cross is the old jailer's residence. The jail itself was demolished and paved over for parking, along with the jail cemetery where they burried the executed prisoners.

Posted by Blogger Matthew @ October 06, 2006 8:54 a.m. #
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