Weyburn’s historic landmark Court House is set to once again be open for provincial court and Court of Queen’s Bench sessions, three years and $8.4 million after work begun to renovate the stately structure.
Legal and government dignitaries were on hand for the official reopening and tour of the 84-year-old building on May 15, with court sessions set to resume the week of June 18.
“The Court House is an important part of the life of the community of Weyburn,” said Government Services minister Laura Ross. “These improvements have enhanced the accessibility of the court house, preserved the heritage of this building and brought new life to the interior and exterior of the facility.”
Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA and Environment minister Dustin Duncan was on hand for the ceremonies, and said it was good to finally have the work on the historic building completed, noting many residents were interested in the progress made on renovations, as his office fielded many calls about it over the years.
“It’s important for the community to have the court house functional and active,” said Duncan, adding it’s not only important for what goes on inside, but also has served as an important location for many people who have been married on the lawn, or have had photographs taken for grad or for weddings.
He added that most people he talked to were understanding of the significant amount of work that was needed on the building’s foundation, which caused a significant amount of the delay to the renovations.
The Weyburn Court House was designated a provincial Heritage Site on Feb. 15, 1988, and it was built in 1928, designed by provincial architect Maurice Sharon. The first sitting of court was on Jan. 22, 1929.
Ross noted that landscape crews were laying sod for the main front lawn until about 10 p.m. the night before the official opening, and the remaining landscaping will be completed in the coming weeks.
The minister noted the original structure was built for $81,274, and for many years the building’s caretaker lived in a suite in the basement. She noted a previous government tried closing Weyburn’s court house at one point, but the then-Opposition MLA Brenda Bakken fought to keep the building open.
“Due to the commitment of the community, this facility will remain a vital part of Weyburn for many years to come,” said Ross.
Justice minister and Attorney General Don Morgan also spoke, and referred to the long process of the renovations to bring the building to its current state, noting the original cost of the building is about one per cent of the cost of renovations.
“I know during the course of the renovations, minister (and MLA Dustin) Duncan was at my doorstep regularly, making sure the renos were going ahead and would be done on time,” he said. “The renovations will help meet the commitment that courts will be provided an adequate facility for their services.”
He added that Justice staff are looking forward to resuming work in the building, and said, “This building is truly a Weyburn landmark, and has met the needs of the justice system for many years.”
Justice Guy Chicoine of the Court of Queen’s Bench spoke on behalf of the Chief Justice.
“We are appreciative of the services we get to bring justice to various judicial centres in Saskatchewan. I’m very pleased of the work done that was done here; this is probably the nicest court house in Saskatchewan,” said the justice, adding the upgraded facilities “are important for the people who work in the court house.”
Having such a nice facility also makes it easier to attract the right staff to courts held in smaller rural areas outside of Regina and Saskatoon.
Justice Chicoine pointed out that not only is the court house important for trial matters, but with the upgraded facilities it will be better for judges and justices to hold pretrial conferences and mediation sessions with people in more private settings than an open courtroom.
Noting the structure was built at the end of the Roaring Twenties, he said, “You can imagine what people must’ve thought when they came here in the 1920s and 30s. It was a palace of justice; it’s important that we continue, as this institution is much larger than the judges and lawyers who work here.”
From the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan, judge Karl Bazin also spoke, noting the government of the day recognized that Weyburn was going to be an important centre in Saskatchewan, and ensured that such an important building was constructed here.
Mayor Debra Button was also glad to see the building was finished and reopened again, preserving an important part of the city’s heritage.
“This building will be here for generations to come; it’s phenomenal to see, and I’m pleased the government acknowledged that this building was important and needed to be kept in good shape,” said Mayor Button.
The Court House was completely renovated, both inside and out; the work included a complete replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, installation of an elevator with two new washrooms, sealing and repair of the foundation, repointing of the masonry, rebuilding of the parapet wall, and replacement of the roofing. The driveway, parking lot and sidewalks were all repaved, all windows were refurbished with double-pane storm windows, and a new fountain was installed, with landscaping.