Kamloops' Old Courthouse, to be upgraded with recent grant money, has long, varied history

A long, varied history

From courthouse to hostel to arts-and-culture hub, one of Kamloops’ heritage buildings has had a long and varied history — and it's about to get a much-needed refresh.

Barbara Berger, the city’s recreation, social development and culture manager, said the Old Courthouse is a special building.

“I think it means a lot to the citizens of Kamloops,” she said.

The city announced Tuesday it has received nearly $500,000 to restore the iconic heritage building.

Upgrades include planned fixes to the slate roof, granite wall and wood detailing on the inside of the building.

“It's the first time that we've actually been successful in receiving a grant of this size,” Berger said.

“These are things now that, for the property, are really going to give it back that shine and prominence that it deserves.”

The courthouse was built in the early 1900s and the first case was heard in the building in 1909.

“If you think back to 1907, when they started constructing it, it was a clear vision down to the meeting of the waters, and it was very prominently situated,” she said.

“It’s always looked quite grand on this hill.”

According to Berger, the courthouse had some jail cells in the basement, where prisoners were kept prior to their hearings. The cells have since been removed.

Berger said the last court case was for a notorious murder in 1983. Then, the building went on the market.

The Canadian Hostel Association purchased it, and the building was home to a hostel for many years.

“While they were very mindful that they were in a designated heritage building, they had to make certain adjustments to the code for that kind of occupancy,” she said.

“They had to install sprinkler systems and things that in a 100-year-old building aren't the easiest or friendly kind of things to be doing to the plaster in ceilings and walls.”

The City of Kamloops bought the building in the late 2000s. Berger said it’s now an important tourist attraction and a cultural hub.

According to Berger, the first and longest living artist cooperative in the province is located downstairs in the building.

The Old Courthouse is also home to Theatre BC, with the upper court room currently used for exhibits and, before COVID restrictions, small concerts and other events.

“We saw for a number of decades where buildings like this might be turned into sort of quasi-commercial buildings. And people accepted that, if it meant they would be maintained and saved,” Berger said.

“I think that allowing it to become the cultural venue that it has become has just really resonated well with people.”

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