Still a beauty, 100 years later

Ad­mi­ra­tion ex­pressed by many as lo­cal court­house marks a cen­tury

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE - COLLIN GAL­LANT cgal­lant@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: CollinGal­lant

It’s been called the most beau­ti­ful in Al­berta, as well as the old­est, but at its 100-year an­niver­sary on Thurs­day, sto­ries about the Medicine Hat Court­house cen­tred on how it was al­most torn down.

Dig­ni­taries in the le­gal, law en­force­ment and po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties gath­ered on the build­ing’s lawn for a noon-hour ded­i­ca­tion of a new plaque de­not­ing its his­toric sig­nif­i­cance.

“There are some that are newer and more mod­ern,” re­marked Court of Queens Bench Chief Jus­tice Mary Moreau. “But there would be lit­tle de­bate about which, con­sid­er­ing its set­ting here on the river, is most beau­ti­ful.”

The build­ing opened this week in 1920 at a cost of $131,000.

Speak­ers re­marked on its set­ting and Ital­ian re­nais­sance re­vival style, and touched on some mo­ments of le­gal his­tory made within its walls and or­nate Court­room No. 1.

“It’s a fit­ting last­ing record that needs to be told to the public,” said for­mer MLA Jim Hors­man, who prac­tised law in the court­house be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics and be­com­ing jus­tice min­is­ter. “It houses the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in this part of the world ... a key­stone of our so­ci­ety.”

Hors­man’s his­tory with the fa­cil­ity be­gan in the 1960s as part of a civic ef­fort to op­pose its de­mo­li­tion and re­place­ment.

Then while in cab­i­net, he stopped ini­tial plans to add a mod­ern ex­ten­sion off the back, be­fore ap­prov­ing more seam­less ren­o­va­tions that pre­served its style in the mid-1980s.

“It was so bad I won’t de­scribe it,” he told the gath­er­ing of ini­tial plans.

Even­tu­ally, lo­cal ar­chi­tect Jim Need­ham was en­gaged and the project went ahead.

Thurs­day’s cer­e­mony was ar­ranged by for­mer Crown pros­e­cu­tor, de­fence lawyer and city al­der­man Bill Cocks, in con­junc­tion with the city’s His­toric Re­sources Com­mit­tee that will place a new story board at the front steps.

Cur­rent Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kaycee Madu said the court­house presents a work­ing sym­bol of the rule of law.

“For 100 years it has pro­vided ac­cess to the jus­tice sys­tem for the peo­ple of this com­munity,” said Madu. “We are for­tu­nate in this coun­try to be able to work to­ward a more per­fect jus­tice sys­tem. This court and the peo­ple who work in it em­body that spirit.”

Thurs­day’s event fol­lows the can­cel­la­tion of a Law So­ci­ety event to cel­e­brate the cen­ten­nial at the build­ing orig­i­nally slated for last May.

This week new plans were an­nounced to resched­ule the event next May. It will in­clude a recre­ation of ma­jor por­tions of the 1946 POW mur­der tri­als and a gala diner fea­tur­ing Supreme Court Jus­tice Rus­sell Brown, says Shaun MacIsaac, the pres­i­dent of the Law Archives So­ci­ety of Al­berta.

City his­toric com­mit­tee chair Pa­trick O’Brien said the new sign is one of sev­eral that the com­mit­tee is ready to un­veil around the city.

“We re­ally want peo­ple to get out and look for the signs and learn about our com­munity,” he said.

In at­ten­dance as well as Moreau, was Queen’s Bench Jus­tice Dal­las Miller, a Medicine Hat na­tive who was called to the bench and took his oath in an ATCO trailer near the site while 1986 ren­o­va­tions were on­go­ing.

Four pro­vin­cial court judges at­tend­ing were Chief Judge Derek Red­man and lo­cal judges Diedrich Brandt, Fred­er­ick Fisher and Eric Brooks.

NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GAL­LANT

For­mer Al­berta jus­tice min­is­ter and lo­cal MLA Jim Hors­man speaks Thurs­day at a cer­e­mony to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the open­ing of the Medicine Hat Court­house in down­town Medicine Hat. Cur­rent Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kaycee Madu (far left) looks on.

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