File photo

File photo

The Wetaskiwin Courthouse

One of the most recognizable and historically-important buildings in Wetaskiwin is the courthouse building. With a history dating back over 100 years, it has become an important historic landmark in the community.

As Alberta grew, there was a need for judicial districts to handle the day-to-day issues related to the law in the new province. Due to its proximity to Edmonton and the Canadian Pacific Railway, Wetaskiwin was chosen as a judicial court district. The decision to make the community a court district meant that there was a need for a courthouse.

Work soon began on the new courthouse that was designed by A.M. Jeffers shortly after his appointment as the Provincial Architect. Jeffers had experience in the United States with courthouse design, and had designed several courthouses by this point throughout Western Canada. The Wetaskiwin Courthouse was one of seven new courthouses built in Alberta between 1906 to 1912.

Work on the courthouse would begin in 1907 according to the datestone on the building that has the provincial crest on it. Over the next two years, work would continue on the building until it was completed in 1909.

When it was completed, the two-storey building featured a seven-bay façade with projecting frontispiece, and a main entrance that is defined by round-arched doorway with sandstone keystone, gable projecting hood mould supported by sandstone brackets.

The Wetaskiwin Courthouse would provide several important functions of the area. The basement was used by the local police service, and included holding cells and the main floor was provided for the sheriff and the court administration, while a large courtroom and ancillary spaces were located on the upper level.

The first trial was held in the building in 1908, one year before it officially opened.

The cannons out front of the building are German field cannons captured by the Allies during the First World War, which were given to Wetaskiwin in gratitude for the support provided by the community to the war effort.

Today, the courthouse is considered to be the best preserved and least-altered of all the courthouses built during that initial phase of building in the province.

On March 15, 1977, the courthouse became a Provincial Historic Resource. On June 11, 2007, the courthouse became a National Historic Site of Canada.

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— Craig Baird