The 140-year-old Court House in Hampton, New Brunswick has heard its last case. Court cases for Kings County will now be heard in Saint John. The town knows a new purpose for the building must be found, something befitting its beauty and its position as centrepiece in the town. But.
They already have a museum and library. The building needs extensive refits and, of course, public money is in short supply. Please, Hampton, don’t let this magnificent structure and its grounds become derelict.
There are too many beautiful old buildings left to moulder beyond the point of any reasonable possibility of renovation or maintenance. Such buildings are markers of our heritage. When we lose them, we lose our collective history.
In Moncton recently, I saw Castle Manor for the first time. The huge stone building with good-sized grounds looks pretty bedraggled. Plywood covers all the ground-floor windows. Originally built by the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1900s as a seniors’ residence, it has also been a school and orphanage. Vacant, it was bought in 2012 by a local builder. He says vandalism has been a problem. He didn’t say what his plans are, but it sounds like he values its historical and architectural significance to the city. I hope he can do something beautiful with it before its story ends sadly.
Coming from St. Thomas, Ontario, I know that architecture, and the recognition of its value, can be defeated by real and bureaucratic vandalism. Alma College was the pride of St. Thomas. Built in 1878, it was a private girls’ school from 1881 to 1988. It then passed through several hands and, like Castle Manor, became pretty sad looking. Windows were boarded up after the glass had been broken. People slept in the building and used it as a hangout. It had provincial status as a historic building but status and a plaque cannot protect against the predation of weather, time and vandals. It deteriorated to the point that rehabilitation may have been impossible, no matter how much money was available. Battles about whether to restore or demolish went on for years. Then somebody torched it.
May 28th 2008, smoke could be seen all over the city. I drove toward it. Alma College in flames. Pretty much every firefighter and piece of firefighting equipment in the city was there, huge crowds gathered on all sides to watch and cry and pray but it was too late. All that’s left are the outdoor amphitheatre and the music building.
I am sorry that it will no longer be an active court. I will miss the reportage from it in the Sussex Kings County Record. Every week there is at least one full page of proceedings. Shoplifting, drunk driving, assault – lengthy and detailed accounts that give a wonderful window into society and jurisprudence in this area.