Editor’s note: If you’re interested in other restoration projects by the government’s Heritage Conservation Advisers, read about the conservation of Circle L Ranch.
Written by:Fraser Shaw, Heritage Conservation Adviser
Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2013, the Taber Courthouse presides over a quiet park just off Taber’s main street. The building’s stately arched entryway speaks to its historic importance as one of Alberta’s first “sub-jurisdiction” courthouses, a system of provincial justice administration introduced at the time.
Built in 1918, Assistant Provincial Architect J.B. Allan developed the courthouse design and noted Provincial Architect Richard P. Blakey subsequently revised it. Blakey’s eclectic mix of Edwardian, Classical Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival elements eventually became an architectural prototype for other courthouses of the period. Examples of Blakey’s work that are still intact include the Blairmore Courthouse in the Crowsnest Pass and the Medicine Hat Courthouse. Both of these buildings are Provincial Historic Resources.
Taber’s courthouse was unusual in that it was also was also a gathering space for town council and community organizations. The Town of Taber acquired the building in 1953 and the courthouse served as the town hall for many years, and council meetings held in the former courtroom. Municipal administration eventually outgrew the building and moved elsewhere. The courthouse was used occasionally by various community organizations until local developer Sid Tams purchased the building in 2017 with a passion for its history and a vision to restore its architectural character.
Building on previous work by the Town of Taber to conserve the front entrance and remove a brick addition on the building’s north end, Mr. Tams undertook an ambitious two-year exterior and interior conservation program. Work included:
refurbishing all the original wood windows
removing paint, repairing and repointing of the brick masonry exterior
removing of decades of interior renovations
restoring the interior plaster walls, ceilings, hardwood floors and historic woodwork
The historic courthouse reached a new milestone in summer 2019 when its new occupants moved in. The owner’s commitment and resourcefulness along with the expertise of contractors and consultants were instrumental in realizing the vision to recapture the building’s architectural character and ensure its ongoing use for decades to come.