Description of Historic Place
The building at 43 Brown Street, known as the former Milton Court House, is situated at Brown and Mary Streets, in the Town of Milton. The Courthouse, Land Registry and Jail are situated on a civic block that faces south onto a memorial park in an older residential neighbourhood. The Courthouse, a two-storey limestone building, was designed with Gothic and Italianate influences by architectural firm Clarke and Murray and was constructed in 1855.
The exterior of the courthouse, the jail walls and the former Land Registry Office building and the scenic character of the property, together with the interior of the courtroom are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1982). The property is also designated by the Town of Milton under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 16-82).
Located at the intersection of Brown and Mary Streets, the courthouse faces Victoria Park, which contains a cenotaph honouring local soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars. The courthouse is located near an older residential neighbourhood, south of the Town's business district. A courtyard created in the former jail yard, has a landscape garden that runs along part of the north and east corner of the property.
The Milton Court House is significant for its association with the development of the judicial system and the evolution in the functioning of local governments in the Province of Ontario. When Upper and Lower Canada were established in 1791, courthouses became centres for judicial and civil administration. After the Municipal Act of 1849 was passed, an unprecedented wave of courthouse construction began as districts were subdivided into counties. The courthouse symbolized the authority of the district or county, and the functions the courthouse served were indicative of the increased responsibility of local governments. Between 1848 and 1866, 21 courthouses were constructed, all very different from those constructed before 1848, being diverse in style, larger in scale, with elaborate detailing and increased public functions. As professional architects started to design courthouses, the buildings became more sophisticated and often had classical and medieval-inspired ornamentation. The Milton Court House was the last of three castellated courthouses built in Ontario (the others being the Middlesex County Court House, 1827-29 and the Guelph Court House 1841). A tender was submitted, in 1854, by Michael Kenney to build the courthouse designed by architectural firm Clarke and Murray. Clarke and Murray's partnership dissolved shortly after getting the contract. Murray retained the courthouse contract and developed a new firm with David Smith in Guelph. In 1853, local landowner Hugh Foster offered a free grant of four acres of land in the Village of Milton for the location of the courthouse. Completed in 1855, the building operated as a courthouse and jail until 1977. The courthouse was renovated in the 1980s and is used as the Town Hall and Municipal Administrative building.
The Milton Court House is significant as one of three castellated courthouses built in Ontario. The courthouse is distinguished by its limestone walls, window tracery, and tall rectangular windows under flat window hoods, double panelled front door and crenelations. The central block with two crenellated towers creates a fortress-like appearance. The original jail was demolished in 1877 and a larger addition designed by the noteworthy Toronto-based architectural firm Cumberland and Storm and built by Henry Horsey, created a bigger jail and space for more offices. This addition is characterized by the finials that sit at four corners of the north elevation, and the paired arched windows on the second storey. During the 1880s a jail yard with masonry walls was constructed on the grounds.
The interior of the courtroom features a curved archway behind the Judge's Chair (now the Mayor's Chair) decorated with mouldings in a Romanesque-inspired chevron pattern. Above that arch is another small arch with label stops. There are small stained glass roundel windows above the rounded-arch windows in the courtroom.
The former Land Registry Office, known as Hugh Foster Hall, built in 1915, also stands on the property. Deigned in the Edwardian Classical style, favoured for period government structures, its one-storey plan is atypical for this type of structure. Clad in rough-faced limestone to harmonize with the adjacent courthouse of the same material, the Land Registry Office displays strong Georgian overtones with a semicircular arched entrance hood and large round-headed windows.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Milton Court House include its:
- location in an older residential neighbourhood
- location across from a large park on the west which provides a serene setting
- local landmark value
- limestone masonry
- double panelled door
- crenellated towers
- large arched windows on the main façade
- paired arched windows on the second storey of the 1877 addition
- flat window hoods over the rectangular windows
- curved archway behind the Judge's Chair
- small arch above the curved archway
- stained glass roundels above the rounded-arch windows
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Land Registry Office include its:
- rectangular one storey plan
- hip slate-clad roof
- plain roofline cornice
- rough-faced limestone exterior cladding
- round-headed windows with multi-pane transom lights and casement sashes
- central entrance with fanlight and semicircular arched hood supported by console brackets