NEW CHAPTER - Red Deer’s new courthouse under construction

A look at the history of Red Deer’s Old Courthouse

The official grand opening of the the old courthouse took place March 6th, 1931

On March 30th, 2017, Premier Rachel Notley and Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley came to Red Deer to announce further details on a new $97 million Justice Centre for Red Deer. While many, particularly those in the local legal and judicial community, welcomed the announcements, it is another chapter in a long and often controversial history of court houses in Red Deer.

In 1904, the federal government began the construction of the first court house building in Red Deer.

Unfortunately, the project was beset by all kinds of construction problems. The facility did not officially open until March 1906.

By this time, the Province of Alberta had been officially created.

With the administration of justice a provincial responsibility, arrangements were made for the provincial government to lease a portion of the building for court facilities.

However, in 1915, the federal government decided to turn the Dominion Lands Office/Court House building into a post office for Red Deer.

The province was consequently forced to look for new space.

In 1916, a lease was signed on an old blue jean factory on the northeast corner of 51 St. and 49 Ave.

The ground floor was used for court offices, with the court room on the second floor.

However, the new facility was not really adequate for the needs of the community.

Nevertheless, almost 15 years would pass before the provincial government began to seriously consider the construction of a proper new court house.

The need for the building had been evident for years. However, it was the onset of the Great Depression that created some urgency for the government to finally act.

Unemployment was rising dramatically. The provincial government was facing a tough battle for re-election in 1930. Major capital projects are a time-tested means of both providing new jobs and securing votes. Hence, the government decided that quickly proceeding with the court house project would be a great way to help ensure the re-election of Red Deer’s MLA, George Wilbert Smith.

As soon as the government made the official announcement of the planned new court house, an intense amount of wrangling and political debate ensued over where the new structure should be located.

Since 1907, the provincial government had owned a large parcel of land on Ross Street, east of 47 Ave. as the future site for a court house. However, many felt that this was too far from the downtown core.

City council agreed to swap the east parcel of land for four lots on the north side of Ross Street, half-way between 48 and 49 Avenues.

The provincial government countered that they felt that the new proposed site was too small and too close to the Alberta Government Telephones exchange building.

A suggestion was then made that the court house be built on 48 Ave. east of the site of the current City Hall. There was a huge public outcry as many felt that the site was too low and too hidden from the view of the main business district.

The provincial government did not want to create any additional political liabilities.

However, it also wanted to get the project underway before the election started. A request was then made to build the new court house on the City Square (now City Hall Park). City council quickly refused as the City Square was for municipal purposes only.

Finally, Premier John Brownlee made a special visit to Red Deer to resolve the dispute.

After considerable negotiations, yet another site, on the northeast corner of Ross Street and 49 Ave. was chosen. This location was both close to the central downtown core and was also very visible from the City Square.

The construction contracts were let in early May and work commenced by the beginning of June.

The provincial election was held on June 18th, 1930. George Wilbert Smith was re-elected, albeit with a somewhat reduced majority.

John Brownlee and the U.F.A. government were also re-elected, despite attempts to create a new provincial political coalition dedicated to the defeat of the incumbent government.

The official opening of Red Deer’s grand new court house took place on March 6th, 1931.

To be continued.

Just Posted

Christmas Wish Breakfast helping those in need

Event takes place in Red Deer on Sunday

Temporary road closure near Riverside Drive

Red Deer road closed for water service

Details of Mr. Big sting operation discussed in Castor-area triple homicides

Klaus confesses to arranging murders, says Frank pulled the trigger

WATCH: Salvation Army kicks off Christmas Kettle Campaign

Mayor Tara Veer made the very first donation to the Salvation Army’s campaign

Red Deer Lights the Night set to kick off holiday season

Family-friendly events to take place in the City’s downtown on Saturday

WATCH: Red Deer RCMP give back

United Way of Central Alberta hold inaugural McDonalds United Way Day

Dead boy’s father posts Facebook response after Appeal Court upholds conviction

David, Collet Stephan were found guilty in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death from bacterial meningitis

Bank of Canada cautious of future rate hikes

The Bank of Canada remains cautious on future rate hikes due to low- inflation risk

London theatre received allegations against Kevin Spacey

The theatre said Thursday the 20 allegations deal with incidents between 1995 and 2013.

Da Vinci’s Christ painting sells for record $450M

The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World,” is one a few paintings by Leonardo known to exist

Loblaws closing 22 stores, launching home delivery ahead of ‘difficult year’

“We are excited about our future. But…we expect 2018 will be a difficult year,” said Galen G. Weston, Loblaw CEO.

Walk of Fame bash celebrates David Suzuki, Donovan Bailey, Anna Paquin

Suzuki says he’ll be thinking of his late parents as he accepts the honour

Trudeau to personally unveil Liberals’ peacekeeping plan

This marks Canada’s first tangible step back into peacekeeping

Blake Shelton named Sexiest Man Alive 2017

“I think to describe myself as a child, one word comes to mind. And that’s fat.”

Most Read