In the course of our daily reporting, we often uncover unusual projects, places, or connections that don't make the final cut. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we're pleased to share our weekly Architrivia.

Laid out according to plans drawn up by Scottish author, colonizer, and urban planner, John Galt in the late 1820s, the construction of the Town of Goderich — which would become one of the very few instances of a model city in Canada — began in earnest in the 1840s, beginning with the Town Square and Harbour. Located on the shores of Lake Huron in what was then Upper Canada (now Ontario), Goderich was well positioned to become a shipping port town on the Great Lakes. Based on idealized urban planning principles borrowed from Europe, Goderich Town Square was laid out with an octagonal radial street pattern with all of the town's main streets radiated outward from the Huron County Court House, which was completed in 1856. 

'The Square,' 1920, aerial view showing the original Huron County Court House, public domain archival image

The heritage architecture of what is known locally as 'The Square' has been mostly well preserved, save for the damage suffered as a result of a tornado in 2011 that affected a handful of buildings located across the historic city centre. Notable as the most dramatic change to the aesthetic of the The Square in its nearly 200-year history, however, was the total destruction of the original Huron County Court House by a devastating fire in 1954. A grand Italianate structure topped with a spire and designed by local architect William Mellish (1807-95), the original Court House was the centrepiece of Goderich for 98 years, its destruction coinciding with that of nearly a century of historical court records that had been stored within. 

Court House, Goderich, 1892, public domain archival image

Seen below, today's Huron County Court House was completed in 1954 as the direct replacement of the original Court House which had occupied the centre of The Square since 1856. Built in the Art Deco style, the 'new' Court House represents a very late representation of a style which had by then fallen out of fashion, and the structure's decidedly minimalist mid-century modern elements serve to offset the overall Art Deco aesthetic. 

Huron County Court House, built in 1954, Goderich, Ontario, image by Flickr user cmh2315fl via Creative Commons

Viewed from the back, the Court House represents a bold departure from the surrounding nineteenth-century architecture of The Square. Its clean modernist lines clearly stand out amidst the ornate Victorian storefronts that define the majority of downtown Goderich. Having already made an impression upon its completion, the small-town Court House became the centre of national attention early in its lifespan as the setting of the infamous Steven Truscott murder trial of 1959, in which the 14-year-old Truscott was sentenced to hang before having his death sentence commuted to life in prison — a decision that was ultimately reversed in 2008 following years of appeals and numerous legal battles. 

Huron County Court House, rear view, image by Flickr user Steven Goetz via Creative Commons

Following the destruction caused by the 2011 tornado, several of Goderich's historic buildings were damaged beyond repair, including the Kingston Street Opera House, the Victoria Street United Church, along with a handful of historic storefronts in and around The Square. Fortunately, the Court House was spared, as the structure's sturdy cement construction helped save the building from any significant damage. Today, The Square as well as the nearby Harbour and historic Huron County Gaol serve as a major draw for summertime tourists. Goderich is situated along a beautiful stretch of Lake Huron, making the picturesque beach town an ideal day-trip destination for urban explorers from Sarnia to Guelph.

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