Award of Merit: Conservation – Materials, Craftsmanship & Construction

MacKenzie Hall Restoration

Windsor, Ontario
Awarded to:

Christopher Borgal & Carlos Morell (GBCA Architects)
Jason Grossi (studio g+G architecture)

Constructed in 1855, Mackenzie Hall is a visually dominating presence in the historic former Town of Sandwich. It is the most important component of the heritage character in the neighbourhood. Mackenzie Hall was built by Alexander Mackenzie (1822-92), who later became Canada’s second prime minister (1873-78). Formerly the Essex County Court House, this building is a symbol of the administration of justice during the province’s early years. It is currently a cultural centre for exhibits, theatre performances and event rentals. 

Mackenzie Hall residence was built with stately lines and at an impressive scale and massing, all which conveys a sense of authority and dignity. It was designed by prominent Detroit-based architect Albert H. Jordan, who incorporated Italianate (Tuscan Renaissance Revival) elements into the basically mid-Victorian Classical Revival architectural style that was prevalent in civic buildings at the time. These elements are expressed in the rich texture of the exterior materials (rough-hewn limestone and sandstone trim), the symmetrically organized façade, the elevated first storey, the stylized classical detailing, and the heavy cornice. Other noteworthy features on the front façade include the four pilasters, rounded segmental pediment, and Palladian style entrance.

The Hall was extensively renovated in the 1980s – this included the addition of a stone clad extension along the south side of the original building. Unfortunately, the 1980s repairs introduced inappropriate hard cementitious mortars which ultimately caused severe deterioration to the stone walling and decay at the wood windows. An integrated conservation team of GBCA and Studio g+G Architects provided forensic analysis, construction/restoration documents, and oversight of the masonry rehabilitation to study and determine the cause(s) of deterioration the exterior building envelope including the ashlar stone and the wood window frames and determine the appropriate approach to rehabilitate the building.