Description of Historic Place
The Courthouse, also known as the Former Courthouse, is located in Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada. The two-storey building is of small but imposing classical design executed in wood. It is composed of a recessed central entrance block flanked by projecting bays with monumental pediments, and is capped by a hipped roof with a large cupola. The overall formality and strength of the Courthouse is emphasized by its paired windows and detailing, such as the mouldings, turned balustrades and columns with ionic capitals. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Courthouse is a Classified Federal Heritage building because of its historical associations, its architectural and environmental values.
Built between 1900 and 1901, the Courthouse is closely associated with the establishment of a federal presence in the Northwest and the exercise of Canadian sovereignty. The Courthouse is one of two remaining examples of early territorial courthouses in Western Canada built by the federal government to oversee judicial matters in the undeveloped parts of Ontario, Quebec and the North West Territories. It is also associated with the Klondike Gold Rush in Dawson.
Valued for its very good aesthetics and its good functional design, the Courthouse is an excellent and rare example of a turn-of-the-century courthouse executed in wood. It is also one of the best examples of the work of architect Thomas Fuller prior to his becoming Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works. Of modest but imposing classical design, the exterior of the building shows careful attention to composition and proportion. Excellent craftsmanship and materials are evident throughout the building.
The Courthouse reinforces the present character of its streetscape setting in Dawson Historical Complex and is a familiar landmark to residents and visitors.
Sources: Joan Mattie, Former Courthouse, Dawson City Historical Complex, Dawson City, Yukon, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 87-063; Former Courthouse, Dawson City Historical Complex, Dawson City, Yukon, Heritage Character Statement, 87-063.
The character defining elements of the Former Territorial Courthouse should be respected.
Its very good aesthetic design, good functional design and excellent materials and craftsmanship, as evidenced by:
- its formal, classically inspired design and detailing, including the recessed central entrance block flanked by projecting bays with monumental pediments
- its hipped roof, capped by a large square cupola which reinforces the building's symmetry;
- the north addition, which, while it creates an imbalance in the façade, is compatible and discrete;
- the secondary elements and details, such as the columns with ionic capitals, mouldings, paired windows, and turned balustrades; which contribute to the overall formality and strength of the design;
- the original interior features including the varnished fir concealed behind more recent finishes and the panelled newel posts in the formerly open staircase;
The manner in which the Courthouse reinforces the present character of its setting in Dawson Historical Complex and is a familiar landmark in the region, as evidenced by:
- its excellent craftsmanship, which harmonizes with the architectural style of the adjacent buildings in the complex, including the former Administration building, Post Office and the Commissioner’s Residence.
- its familiarity to the residents of Dawson and to visitors of the Dawson Historical Complex.