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Compiled by Margaret Carter

Ottawa, National Parks and Sites Branch, Environment Canada, c1983.
Distributed by Canadian Government Publishing Centre.
258pp, paper, $13.95.
ISBN 0-660-11315-5.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Michele Laing.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

Margaret Carter begins this study of early court houses in Canada by providing readers with an overview of the evolution of the judicial system throughout the country. The design and construction of facilities to serve the court system, she relates, was directly dependent upon two significant factors: the provincial or territorial responsibility to accommodate a two-level judicial organization and the diversity of authorities responsible for the actual construction in various parts of the country. Chronological and geographical differences were of secondary importance.

Surviving examples of court house structures built before 1914 in the East and 1930 in northern Ontario and the West have been thoroughly documented on an individual basis. Carter, who is head of the architectural history division at Parks Canada, called upon architectural historians in each of the provinces and territories to contribute their knowledge and expertise to this study. Buildings are grouped and described by region, east to west.

Some chapters provide a straightforward, often dry account of the means and methods employed in court house construction. Descriptions include the manner by which designs and architects were chosen, building materials used, and socio-economic trends that affected individual projects. Other authors have combed archival records for contemporary reactions to these early court houses so as to present a social as well as architectural history of this particular building type. Chapters on the Maritimes and British Columbia are particularly noteworthy in this respect.

The text is well illustrated with photographs, drawings, plans, sections, and elevations. Captions describe buildings within their social/historical context. The appendix, which provides a summary of basic data collected on each building, plus a photograph, is especially valuable for quick reference. Bibliographical information on architects and judicial institutions completes the volume.

Early Canadian Court Houses provides an introduction not only to the pattern of architectural building types but also to the beginnings of the legal system in Canada. As such it will be of value to those interested in Canadian history, law, and architecture.

Michele Laing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
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