Victoria Hall (City Hall) History
Victoria Hall was erected during the years 1862-1864 following a period of heated controversy which began in 1859 with plans to replace the then existing East Ward Market Hall with a more grandiose building.
The use of this site as an outdoor market was established back in 1832 when the local government was presented by the Honourable Charles Jones with a parcel of land running from the King’s Highway (King Street) down to the River St. Lawrence. This land, which now comprises East and West Market Streets and the property in between, served in this capacity as a market area for subsequent years. A square-shaped frame building was built on the middle of the side prior to 1852 to house the indoor butcher’s stalls.
The electors of Brockville were asked to approve the expenditure of $3,500.00 for a new East Ward Market House in May of 1859 and did so overwhelmingly. It was at this point that the town council of the day became embroiled in the problem of planning what should be contained in this new building and what its appearance should be. It was not until the fall of 1861 that the disruptive petty politics in Council was resolved and two new firms of architects were approached for their schemes. One firm was Jones & Fuller of Toronto and Ottawa then famous for their winning design for the new Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and the second architect was Henry H. Horsey of Kingston, the son of the well-known architect Edward Horsey.
It was during 1862 that the design of the present building by Horsey was determined and approved by Town Council and tenders for its construction were called in the summer of that year. The contract was awarded on September 15, 1862 to John Steacy, Jr. (and David S. Booth, his partner) while William Fitzsimmons, the mayor, and an experienced builder himself, was appointed to superintend the construction. H. H. Horsey had originally estimated the total cost of the new building to be $26,000.00 but costs may have eventually exceeded that. Work began that fall of 1862 and continued all through 1863 and into 1864 as the workmen tried to complete all the final details.
The first recorded use of the concert hall on the second floor was on October 8, 1864 with a concert by Madam A. Bishop. The first floor offices were rented to the Post Office and they operated from this building for the next twenty years until 1884. In the 1880’s it was decided to convert the main block of the building for the town offices. These changes were designed by Brockville architect, O. E. Liston.
In 1904 two floors were added to the one-storey market in the rear.
Victoria Hall, like similar buildings in other Ontario towns was designed to show off the success and taste of the inhabitants of the town. It utilizes its central position on King Street with a handsome design in cut stone and round headed windows and doors. The main block at the front is a large, two-storey rectangle topped by a four slope “hip” style roof and a tall clock and bell tower toward the north side of the building.
Looking at the King Street facade, one can see a balanced design made up of a large central doorway (originally the front entrance to the rear indoor market) on the ground floor and above that a combination window designed in the Palladian style. Both of these openings are placed between two of the projecting stone block pilasters which rise from the street to the roof. The main facade is completed by two bays on each side; on the ground floor, a doorway and a window on each side, and four windows on the second floor above each of these lower openings.
The detailed tower above is placed centrally above the front entrance and is octagonal in shape with a domed top supported by eight columns. The tower is open between these columns and contains a working clock and bell. There are four clock faces included in the design of the tower dome. Two stone chimneys of pleasant design flank the tower at the east and west end of the roof.
Each corner of this main block is emphasized by the use of smooth stone projections with quoins employed on the second floor. Each floor level is shown by a narrow band of smooth stone blocks. Each of the tall window openings is outlined with stone blocks of alternate widths with a prominent keystone at the centre of the semi circular top.
The style of the main block might be termed Italianate and its simple massing, embellished with rich detailing would make it a noteworthy structure on any Canadian streets.
The wing which runs to the rear was enlarged in 1904 and was designed to complement the front block. At that time the height of the original market building was raised by the addition of two more storeys to accommodate more town offices.
City of Brockville
1 King Street West, PO Box 5000
Brockville, Ontario K6V 7A5
For more information, email the Heritage Committee