“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article April 5, 1998
Court of Queen's Bench
• Built: 1959-1962 (five-storey structure), 1974-1976 (four-storey addition).
• Architect: Alberta Public Works Department architects. Chief architect for the province in 1958 was Ron Clarke and in 1974 Vic Bathory.
• Contractor: 1974: Cana Construction Co. Ltd. of Calgary.
• Original cost: $4 million for the original structure and $4.5 million for the four-floor upward expansion in 1976.
• Original owner: Provincial government.
• Construction materials: Reinforced concrete and steel. Marble, granite and Tyndall stone facing on the exterior. Originally designed to accommodate a three-storey addition.
• Original interior details: In 1962, a 10-foot-high Canadian coat of arms cast in bronze by a Vancouver firm was installed over the entrance. Massive double glass and brass front doors. The fifth floor included judges' offices and library, secretaries' offices and a lounge area; the fourth floor had lawyers' library, lounges and locker rooms; the second and third floors had eight courtrooms. The operations of the sheriff, clerk of the court, court reporters and probate court were housed on the second floor, while the ground floor had offices for the RCMP, Attorney General's Department, family courts, a staff lunch room and storage vaults. Two public and two private elevators.
• Constructed on the site of the first permanent court house built in the North West Territories in 1888. The old sandstone court house was demolished in 1958 in spite of public support to retain it as a historic site. The adjacent Land Titles Building was demolished in 1970.
• Sod turned April 1959.
• Dec. 14, 1960: Premier Ernest Manning declared the cornerstone of the new Calgary court house officially laid. "The premier laid the cornerstone by spreading a small amount of cement with a silver trowel and by striking the stone solemnly three times with the stone mason's hammer."
• Cornerstone of the 1888 structure was saved and installed in the wall of the main entrance of the 1962 court house.
• The project dragged on for 43 months, plagued by construction delays, a 1959 steel strike in the United States and long waits for imported walnut and teak wood necessary for interior finishing.
• The building opened on Oct. 5, 1962 without fanfare. William Sellar, a Calgary lawyer, had the distinction of being the first district court judge to be sworn in at the new court house.
• In 1974, construction began on a four-floor upward expansion and alterations to the existing structure. The addition resulted in a nine-storey building with 20 courtrooms.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared December 10, 2002.
Courthouse / Court of Queen's Bench
611 4th St. S.W.
• Before construction of this $38,000 courthouse was completed in 1890, court was held in the Northwest Mounted Police barracks and the immigration shed. The two-storey Romanesque-style building, designed by Dominion government architect Thomas Fuller, was built of rough-cut sandstone from John McCallum's Sunnyside quarry. By 1909, conditions were so crowded the province began planning a new facility. When it was completed in 1914 (now known as the Court of Appeal building), the old courthouse was used as office space for a host of government departments and offices. Despite public protest and a petition presented to the provincial government by Colonel Macleod's granddaughter, Mary Dover, the first permanent courthouse in the Northwest Territories was demolished in 1958.
• Begun in 1958, the Court of Queen's Bench building opened years behind schedule on the site cleared by the demolition of the old courthouse. The $4-million, five-storey structure took 31/2 years to complete while contractors waited for the end of a steel strike in the United States. In 1974, a $4.5-million, four-storey addition expanded the number of courtrooms to 20 from 12.
In recent months, Alberta Infrastructure issued a press release asking for ideas and options on the feasibility of building a new law court complex in Calgary. The goal of this project is to consolidate the six court facilities in use throughout the city, including the Court of Queen's Bench.