Constructed: 1870 - 1871
Architect: Robert Surtees
Location: 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa
Designed by civil engineer and architect Robert Surtees, the Carleton County Court House was built between 1870 and 1871 by contractor John Webster. The new building replaced a small, square stone court house and jail built on the same site in 1842 by master stonemason Thomas McKay, which in February 1870 was destroyed by fire.
Characteristic of the Italianate style, the Carleton County Courthouse has a symmetrical design comprised of a 3½-storey centre block, topped by a gable and flanked by 2½-storey hipped roof pavilions. A projecting two-story, gabled roof entrance is centered on the principal elevation.
Built of grey Gloucester limestone, the building’s rich architectural detailing includes its irregular coursed rubble stone walls trimmed with cut stone, rustic quoins, and royal coat of arms carved in the pediment. A distinctive heavy cut stone wall surmounted by cast iron cresting in a fleur-de-lis design surrounds the building.
The Court House was part of a legal precinct that included the former Carleton County Gaol, the Carleton County Registry Office, and the former City Registry Office on Nicholas Street.
Despite major renovations and additions carried out in 1953 and 1964, the north and west facades of the Court House remain largely intact.
In 1978, the Carleton County Court House was designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Just two years later in 1980, the Ontario Government revealed the Province’s intention to build a new $35-million court house on federal land at Cartier Square, rendering the 1870 Court House surplus and a candidate for demolition.
Uncertainty prevailed until 1985 when the City of Ottawa acquired the Court House building and entrusted it to the Ottawa Arts Court Foundation.
Ottawa Arts Court became the community’s municipal arts centre in 1988, and is now home to many of Ottawa’s professional arts producers and presenters. Heritage Ottawa has maintained its office at Arts Court since 1990.
Now a historic landmark in downtown Ottawa, the Carleton County Court House continues to evolve as a vibrant hub for artists and audiences alike. The building is currently part of an ambitious redevelopment project to create a new arts complex, which includes rehabilitation of the Court House, Gaol and the former Carleton County Registry Office.
Heritage Ottawa supports the redevelopment project, but has requested an update of the building’s designation by-law under the Ontario Heritage Act.
In particular, Heritage Ottawa notes the need to identify and protect key features of the original interior which survive.