Connect with us

Alberta

History of Red Deer’s Second Courthouse

Published

11 minute read

It has been witness to a great many events and stories in the 90 years it has stood on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue in Red Deer.

The Gaetz Company building as seen in 1912. It was the courthouse for the region from 1916-1931. It is the current site of Mason Martin Homes. Canada’s first female juror served in this courthouse in 1922.  Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives photo.

As the solidly constructed anchor for both provincial and the Court of Queens Bench for 52 years, this sturdy structure has also been a sanctuary for artists, the setting for movie productions and most recently home to numerous professional offices. It also was the backdrop for the last murder trial in Alberta which saw the defendant sentenced and hanged under capital punishment in the province.

Construction of the new courthouse well underway. City of Red Deer Archives photo P2610

This readily recognizable icon celebrated the anniversary of its official opening earlier this month and is showing no signs of retiring any time soon.

View of the Lyndall Limestone columns in the Palladian Style entrance. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

This was the second courthouse for the steadily expanding central Alberta city. The earlier one had opened in 1916 after having been converted from a coverall factory. Talk about being adaptive and creative!

Construction of the “new” courthouse was significant for many reasons. The Great Depression was in full swing so this project provided a much-needed injection of both money and jobs into the community along with a sense of pride that such a fine building would bring to the region.

Brick exterior with Lyndall Limestone detailing. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This would be the last courthouse built in the province until the 1950s, the final version  of a series of Alberta courthouses built in the classical revival style. Both Wetaskiwin and Medicine Hat received similar structures during this era.

Testament to the quality of the design and materials used in construction of the building is the fact that it remains steadfast after more than 8 decades of use.

Constructed using hot riveted steel beams, brick and mortar, then graced with pillars shaped from the legendary Lyndall Limestone from Manitoba, this grand historical resource will stand for a great many more years to come.

Original 1912 era boiler. Converted from coal to natural gas.
Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

In the spirit of the type of practicality and resourcefulness often seen during the depression, heating for the building would be provided by a boiler built in 1912 and  repurposed from a ship!

It was converted from coal burning to natural gas in 1949 and has since been replaced by modern, efficient boilers yet it still remains in the building as evidence of a different era.

Every building of a certain vintage usually carries a story or two about otherworldly spirits or energies. Why not the old Courthouse? It was thought that the ghost of Robert Raymond Cook inhabited the building.

On one particular evening, the caretaker for the courthouse was heading into the boiler room to grab some tools. When he flicked on the lights, they popped briefly and went dark. Despite this, the caretaker walked alongside the boiler in the direction of his tools when suddenly he was slapped in the face by an unexpected soft force! Was it the apparition of the hanged murderer?

When he had regained his composure a time later, the caretaker investigated the boiler room once more to discover the source of the slap in the dark. A frightened pigeon had flown up in his face when startled in the boiler room!

Judge bench in the original courtroom. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This magnificent building was the home of the judicial branch of the province for the Red Deer region from 1931 to 1983 when its replacement was constructed just down Ross Street to the east.

A law office has made good use of the original architecture. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

The courthouse was the venue for a great many legal tales over the years but probably none more famous than the 1959 murder trial for 21 year old Robert Raymond Cook of Stettler, AB who was accused of murdering all 7 members of his family in a most violent manner.

RCMP mugshot of Robert Raymond Cook, 1959. Photo used with permission by Legal Archives Society of Alberta.

His trial began on November 30th, 1959 and Cook was found guilty and sentenced to hang for his crimes. His defense appealed the conviction and a second trial was held in Edmonton but his conviction was upheld on June 20th, 1960.

On November 14, 1960, Robert Raymond Cook was hanged. His death sentence was the last ever carried out in the province of Alberta.

the actual witness bench where Robert Raymond Cook would have sat Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

Numerous books were written about this trial as the murders captivated and horrified the population who followed the course of the investigation and trials.

Even a dramatic play was created, called “The End of the Rope”, reenacting this historic trial which was developed and was even staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago.

exterior of the courthouse while it was home to the Community Arts Centre in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Red Deer Archives.

In 1983, the  building was sold to the city of Red Deer for a dollar and turned into the Old Courthouse Community Arts Centre. The grand structure housed painters and potters among numerous artistic pursuits for 18 years

An artist displaying his works during a Christmas arts fair in the courthouse, 1987. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

The old courthouse has seen real life dramas and reenactments of legal dramas including being the location for filming  scenes from the TV Movie, “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd in 1994.

Even a dramatic one-man play was created by Aaron Coates called “The End of the Rope” in 2003, re-enacting this historic trial. It was developed and staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago. Cook’s lawyer, David MacNaughton even answered questions from the crowd after the performance.

Promotional ad for the TV movie “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd. Photo from IMDB

The old courthouse made its most recent transformation in 2001 when it was purchased by Jim Dixon and Dick McDonell.

Interior details.
Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

The new owners invested close to a quarter of a million dollars in upgrading the building including installation of new boilers, restored doors, energy efficient windows and new flooring  throughout. 1930s era lighting was sourced to replace fluorescent fixtures, giving the rejuvenated structure a proper historical feel.

Today this 90-year-old icon of downtown Red Deer proudly carries on as the home to numerous professional organizations from lawyers to architects and with its new owners and numerous upgrades, this beautiful structure should be proudly welcoming people to downtown for a great many more years to come.

Red Deer’s old courthouse sits as the centrepiece of Red Deer’s historic downtown and is celebrating its 90th birthday. Come spend some time downtown. Visit the city’s unique Ghost Collection, many of which are within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse.  For more information on leasing opportunities in this beautiful building, please email Davin Kemshead or phone 403-318-6479.  

 

How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer

 

 

 

I'm a storyteller with a love of aviation and local history. In the 1990's I hosted a popular kids series in Alberta called Toon Crew.

Follow Author

More from this author

Alberta

Lafreniere scores in OT to lift Rangers over Flames 5-4

Published on

By Allan Kreda in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — Alexis Lafreniere scored 1:37 into overtime and Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves as the New York Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 on Monday night.

Lafreniere led a 2-on-1 rush and then tracked down the rebound of Mika Zibanejad’s shot, beating netminder Jacob Markstrom for his seventh goal this season. That ended a frenzied game that was tied four times and featured several fights following big hits — two by Rangers captain Jacob Trouba.

“Getting the game-winning goal in OT is always fun,” the 21-year-old Lafreniere said. ”It was a great up-and-down game with two really good goalies. It was fun to play.”

Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Stone scored two minutes apart early in the third period to give the Flames a 4-3 lead, but Zibanejad scored his second goal of the game — his team-leading 24th — to tie it for the fourth time at 12:55.

Filip Chytil also scored twice for the Rangers, who improved to 9-2-3 in their last 14 games and are 17-4-3 since Dec. 5.

Halak has won six straight and seven of his last eight appearances.

Zibanejad put New York ahead 3-2 with 14 seconds left in the second but Mangiapane scored at 6:38 of the third to tie it. The play was reviewed to determine if Mangiapane kicked in the puck with his skate, but the goal stood.

“It wasn’t pretty at times. … It was a hard battle. We just kept going,” Zibanejad said. “It was a big two points and a great way to come back from the break.”

Zibanejad’s first goal came as he roofed the puck past Markstrom on the power play with assists to Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin. The assist was Panarin’s 300th point with the Rangers.

Chytil opened the scoring at 5:37 of the first, rifling a high shot past Markstrom. Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox assisted.

Calgary forward Blake Coleman tied it at 10:25 with his 11th goal.

There were several skirmishes in the first as both teams were playing for the first time since Jan. 27 following the All-Star break.

“It wasn’t a great hockey game, but it was an exciting game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was different — a bunch of fights going on. … Maybe the break was too short.”

Trouba tussled with Calgary’s Chris Tanev after the defenseman leveled Flames forward Dillon Dube with an open-ice check.

Later in the first, several fights ensued after Rangers forward Sammy Blais drilled Flames forward Milan Lucic. New York rookie Will Cuylle fought Calgary’s MacKenzie Weegar, and Lucic was assessed an extra two minutes for roughing against Rangers forward Jake Leschyshyn.

“Exciting game. Fun game. I thought we were valiant to come back,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “I thought we played really well. … There were three or four hits. They were clean, big hits.”

Chytil put the Rangers ahead 2-1 on a breakaway at 2:02 of the second. Fans at Madison Square Garden chanted the 23-year-old Czech forward’s name after his second goal.

“That’s cool, feels very good,” he said. “It motivates me to be better the next shift and show what I can do.”

Chytil has a career-best 18 goals and 31 points this season. He has six goals in his last four games and 14 points — 10 goals — in his last 12 games.

Calgary’s Tyler Toffoli tied it at 2 with his 19th goal on the power play at 16:45 of the second.

Trouba struck again with just under a minute left in the second, body-checking Nazem Kadri hard in the Rangers zone, then fighting Dube who rushed to his teammate’s defense. Dube received an extra two-minute penalty for instigating, and Zibanejad scored the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play.

NOTES: Zibanejad’s 83rd power-play goal for the Rangers moved him ahead of Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle into a tie with Vic Hadfield for sixth place on the franchise list. … Calgary scratched defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Connor Mackey, plus forward Brett Ritchie. … The Rangers scratched forwards Julien Gauthier and Vitali Kravtsov, plus defenseman Libor Hajek. … The teams meet again Feb. 18 in Calgary.

UP NEXT

Flames: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Rangers: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.

___

AP NHL: www.apnews.com/hub/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

Continue Reading

Alberta

‘I am sorry’: Man convicted in stabbing of Calgary chef apologizes at sentencing

Published on

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A man convicted of killing a chef apologized Monday and expressed dismay that no one with the victim’s family was in court to to hear it.

Tommie Holloway was convicted of manslaughter while his accomplice, Anthony Dodgson, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Christophe Herblin.

Herblin was stabbed to death in a parking lot outside his soon-to-be opened Calgary café following a break-in in 2020.

Holloway, 33, told his sentencing hearing that he hoped his words would get through to Herblin’s wife, who wrote in a victim impact statement last December that the killing had left her broken and struggling “to make sense of this tragedy.”

“It got to me. Got me emotional,” said Holloway.

“I just wish they were here today so I could look at them eye-to-eye, apologize for my actions. I know no amount of words that I’m going to say is going to bring back their loved one, but I do want them to know that I am sorry.”

The Crown has recommended Holloway serve 12 years in prison. Defence lawyer Kim Ross said his client had no previous criminal record, has made efforts to turn his life around and should serve three to five years.

“I’m not standing here saying that imprisonment is not appropriate here. The issue is how long,” Ross told Court of King’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

“Mr. Holloway has clearly learned his lesson … and I submit with some degree of confidence that this court will never see Mr. Holloway back here again.”

Herblin was a longtime executive sous chef at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, and his new restaurant was weeks away from opening.

Court heard Dodgson and Holloway broke into the restaurant with plans to get through a wall into an adjacent cannabis shop. They fled when a car drove by and returned later to continue their robbery attempt but became frustrated as Herblin had showed up.

Holloway smashed Herblin’s car windows in order to lure him into the parking lot. Dodgson attacked him and stabbed him nine times.

Herblin staggered to a nearby gas station for help and died shortly after police officers came to his aid.

Ross said Holloway had no knowledge of what was going to happen and immediately ran off after smashing out the car’s windows.

“Mr. Holloway at that point did not know what had happened. He did not know that Mr. Herblin was in the state that he was in and that he had gone to the Shell looking for help,” Ross said.

“He was leaving the scene of a possible break and enter. Certainly at the time of his leaving he did not know.”

Dodgson receives an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction. When the sentencing hearing began for both men in December, the Crown argued that Dodgson should not be eligible for parole for 15 to18 years. His lawyer asked for a range of 10 to 12 years.

The judge is scheduled to deliver his sentence for Holloway and Dodgson on Feb. 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said lawyers were recommending the time Holloway should serve before he is eligible for parole.

Continue Reading

Trending

X