Did you know the distinctive building that currently houses the Maritime Museum of BC, was once British Columbia’s Supreme Court?
Everything from trials of murder to sealing laws were heard within its walls. In fact, it is the oldest Vice Admiralty court in BC still in use today, however, the trials heard today are not nearly as interesting as in the past. Currently it operates as a Tax Court.
The building, which features traditional victorian architecture, was built in 1889, by H.O. Tiedemann. Since its first trial, the Courtroom has seen many key historical figures cross its threshold, including the talented architect Francis Rattenbury. Most notably perhaps, was the infamous Chief Justice Matthew Baille Begbie, aka the Hanging Judge, who presided over the court and meted out his judgments swiftly and colourfully.
Local tradition has it that this was the first building in Victoria to make extensive use of reinforced concrete with the brick facing stuccoed and rendered to resemble the grouting of huge granite blocks. It was competed in 1889 at a total cost of $35,075. In its day the Court House presented an impressive spectacle, towering over other buildings in the immediate area and looking out over the harbour. The elevator remains a high point of the interior and is the oldest lift in North America still in operation. During the 1900-1901 remodelling, many of the windows were filled in, the main arches of the east portico were converted into windows and the interior space was redefined as an office. The Court House’s last hearing was held in February, 1962, just before the courts moved to the new buildings on Courtenay Street. During 1963-1964, the old Court House served as a temporary City Hall. In 1965, the building became the Maritime Museum of BC.
Be sure to add a trip to the Maritime Museum of BC and the Courtroom as things to do when visiting Victoria.
Did You Know? When a criminal was sentenced, the end result was more than likely a hanging in Bastion Square.