Carleton County Courthouse in Woodstock is designated a Local Historic Place because its construction signified the end of a long feud between the “Creek Village” (present day Woodstock) and Upper Woodstock as each vied for Shire town status, for a prominent downtown office and for the landscape around the building.
The first County Courthouse was built in Upper Woodstock, the hub of the County in its early years, shortly after Carleton County formed in 1832. By the end of the century the centre of industry had shifted towards the “Creek Village,” and the Courthouse was in need of major repair. Lengthy debate and heated words eventually resulted in Town Council’s decision to erect a new courthouse as an addition to the Registry Office (1884) on Main Street in 1909, instead of replacing the building in Upper Woodstock. It was completed in 1910. With all major civic buildings now in the “Creek,” Woodstock became the heart of the County.
The interior of the courtroom of the Carleton County Courthouse is an important part of the designation because it features all the original wooden appointments, as well as original hardware. It is the only known courthouse in Canada to have retained its grand jury box. Other offices within the building have undergone renovation but the courtroom and judges’ chambers remain largely original.
The grounds are included in the designation because they are part of the overall aesthetic value of the building. The cenotaph, a statue of a WWI soldier, was constructed in the early 1920s. The base was inscribed with the names of Carleton County men who were casualties of WWI. Casualties from succeeding wars have been added on bronze plaques. The German field gun at the opposite end of the lawn was secured by Member of Parliament Thomas W. Caldwell and placed on the grounds as a memorial in 1920.
Carleton County Jail is designated a Local Historic Place. Its was used as a jail from 1901 until 1993.
Cells and other facilities for inmates and their supervisor on the main level are still intact and occasionally used. Living quarters for the jail keeper on the second story have been converted to office space but some decorative elements, including a fireplace and mantle, were retained. The exterior of the building has changed little since its construction with the exception of some paint and the enclosure of the grounds.
The grounds are part of the historic place designation because of their local interest as the site of three hangings: George Gee in 1904, Thomas Cammack in 1905, and Benny Swim in 1922. The hanging of Benny Swim, who had committed a double murder, created a scandal because he had to be hanged twice.
The building also has value as a symbol of the development of Woodstock. The construction of the jail was a part of the growth of “the Creek Village” (present day Woodstock). When the County of Carleton formed in 1832, Upper Woodstock was the shire town. Industry and business slowly shifted towards “the Creek Village,” cumulating just after the turn of the century when all the civic buildings that had served the County since the 1830s, including the jail, were replaced with new buildings in Woodstock.
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