Going to Court
One very good reason for moving to the Niagara region is that we are now closer to our God Daughter. A God Daughter is better than a regular one because she is much like a grandchild; you have the title without all the work. And so by invitation we were hosted by Tammy, the Seargent at Arms for the grand old Welland Court House. I have always been intrigued by old buildings and especially those with history and provenance. The Court House is downtown across from City Hall and was built in 1856 when it was the center for law and order for the lower Niagara region.. It had a main court room which is still in use. This court room along with most of the upper floor was destroyed by fire and restored in the early 1900’s. This decision to restore rather than re-build was wise as the main court room still boasts a wonderful glass dome ceiling. An outside court yard where public hangings took place and 60 prison cells that were in two sections three floors high were a part of the original structure. The cells were 5x10ft. Solid stone walls with high ceilings and a small iron barred door, No plumbing, just a bed and a chair. Not a place you would want to spend two years less a day. These cells are used for storage now and are NOT open to the public. Pitty!
The last public hanging was in 1859 when hangings were brought inside. One hundred years passed before another hanging was held in 1959. Welland was a pretty orderly place by all accounts and hanging was abolished in the 70’s. The hangman’s overhead steel frame and trap door are on display along with a small museum of pictures and newspaper copies of notable historical events for the public to view. On the windowsill behind the trap door is a small paper giving instructions as to how long the rope must be, based on the weight and height of the perpetrator; This was to avoid tearing the head off or worse leaving the poor fellow choking to death. The perfect length will snap the neck causing instant death. The chart went as low as 115 pounds; however women were also the victims of the hangman. The addition was built in the early 1950’s adding four additional court rooms and more administration offices.
For those interested in some local history, you might want to take a look.