Friday, May 27, 2011

Brockville's Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall

By : Dennis Stein

  One of the pinnacle buildings of the Brockville city skyline is Victoria, or City Hall. It was built between 1862 and 1864, on land presented to local government by Honourable Charles Jones, who owned a great deal of property in Brockville. Previous to its construction, there was the East Ward Market Hall, a square shaped frame building constructed in the 1830's to house indoor butcher's stalls. It was in 1859 that debate began with Council on the planing of a new building. The B&O Railway tunnel to what is now Blockhouse Island was nearing completion, and had changed the property quite a bit. After lengthy political bantering, the architect Henry H.Horsey of Kingston was contracted to design the new building, begun in 1862, and finishing in 1864. William Fitzsimmons was a master builder, and Mayor of Brockville at the time, and was appointed as Superintendant of construction. It was estimated at $26,000 to build, but costs most likely went higher by completion. A beautiful example of 19th century design, the front block of the main building is complemented by a large clock and bell tower. The clock itself has four faces, and is cared for by Victor Smetona, and his grandson Jordan, who winds the clock manually every Tuesday. The second floor originally housed a concert hall, and a ballroom. The first official use of the concert hall after the building was finished in the fall of 1864 was by Madam A. Bishop. The rear building housed the market area, and in 1904, two more storeys were added to house more town offices. The rear wing of the building originally housed 16 well appointed butcher stalls, eight on each side, with a passage leading through from the front of the main building.

  The Post Office rented out the offices on the front block main floor until the 1880's, operating out of Victoria Hall for fifteen years, when town offices took over, and the Post Office moved to their own building on Court House Ave. The market in the rear wing is gone, taken over by office space, but the Farmer's Market is still a pleasant attraction during the warmer months on Market St. West these days. A beautiful building, Victoria Hall is an unmistakable landmark to Brockville, and another proud example of 19th century architecture in our city...

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