Civic Centre History

Dedicated December 16, 1974

Business Operations Commenced May 5, 1975

Official Opening October 15, 1975

This City stands on the site of the Ojibway gathering place and has a very rich history. Settlement of the St. Marys River north shore - Canadian Side - came after 1794, upon withdrawal of British forces from the American side. The river, now part of the great St. Lawrence inland waterway, became an important gateway to the West following the visit of the French explorer Etienne Brulé in 1670.

The Civic Centre is located on the site of the old Ferry Dock on reclaimed land on the St. Marys River. It was designed to be the focus for the entire waterfront Urban Renewal Project.

Architects for the project were Marani, Rounthwaite and Dick, represented locally by Gugula, Smedley and Barban. The general contractor was Newman Bros. and the interior decor designer was R.V.B. Burgoyne Architects of Sault Ste. Marie.

The total cost of the building was $4.3 million dollars, which included the site, the building and furnishings. The floor area exceeds 90,000 square feet.

Paved terraces, a part of the extensive landscaping, surround the building. These walkways, at the water's edge, afford people enjoyable views of the River, Park, and boats and flagships of all nations preparing to go through the Lock system.

The distinctiveness of the building is enhanced by the rich brown porcelain panels and gold-tinted mirror glass which was chosen because of its ability to control lighting, heating and cooling requirements. The only non-tinted glass in the building is used for the indoor gardens to facilitate the growth of the various trees etc. (photosynthesis)

Level 1

The Building Services Division, which looks after the physical structure of the building is located on Level 1. Additional offices include Office Services, the  Economic Development Corporation and the Provincial Offences office and courtroom. A cafeteria is available to city staff and visitors. The Ontario Court of Justice is also temporarily situated on this floor.

Level 2

As you enter the Civic Centre Lobby on Level 2, you are drawn to the ethnic plaques display dedicated to the founders of this City. Various ethnic groups representing the City’s rich cultural history donated their crests to be part of the display. On the adjacent wall is the City’s crest and a plaque commemorating the official opening. Just inside the door to the stairs to the Council Chambers is a large wooden plaque explaining the origins of the City’s name. The rest of the floor space is used for offices including the Community Services Department and some of the Finance Department offices. Besides an information kiosk, there are display cases to showcase local craft-persons and hobbyists.

Level 3

The Council Chamber design is theatre style, fashioned after the Roman Forum.  The Mayor, City Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer are seated at the head of the room. City Councillors sit in front in a semi-circle seated according to seniority. Commissioners of the various City Departments are available at meetings for expert opinions or information.  The microphone and power to the press gallery are controlled by the console operator.  The media can broadcast directly to FM stations or tape from the gallery. Cable outlets are available for TV live coverage.  There is also a remote control projection screen for slides or movies, a tack board for displays or maps, and black board for projects that require visual presentation. An FM system for the hearing impaired is available. Additional features are panelling and desks made of Canadian hard maple, constructed locally by Soo Mill and Lumber. As well, steel beams used in the construction of the building came from the Algoma Steel Plant.

Henry C. Hamilton Room located on Level 3, is named after one of the first mayors of the City (1890 and 1891).  It is a formal reception room designed to accommodate special events hosted by City Council for dignitaries, government officials and visiting Royalty. The chandelier was specifically designed for the room and is made of Czechoslovakian crystal. Antique furniture and original paintings by local artists contribute to the elegant appearance of this room.  Ken Danby’s painting "Opening the Lock", in a delicate egg tempera medium, gives an interesting visual effect of the ship actually moving towards you. The Henry C. Hamilton Room has the convenience of kitchen facilities for catered events which is concealed by large folding mahogany panels.

For the most part, Level 3 consists of meeting rooms designed to accommodate various sized groups. The Russ Ramsay Board Room, the largest, has folding panels which may be set aside to increase its capacity. It contains a mosaic City Crest made of ceramic tiles, which was a gift from the students of Korah Collegiate and instructor-consultant Norm Ortiz.  The Councillors Room features restored desks from the former City Hall.

The open area of Level 3 features the portraits of all the City’s past mayors.  They are not placed there until their term of office is complete.  Many city street names are taken from the names of our former dignitaries and mayors.

The Medal of Merit Award plaque honouring citizens of Sault Ste. Marie recognized by the City for outstanding individual or community achievement is also located on Level 3.

The Local Immigration Partnership, IT training rooms, and the Port of Algoma occupy the remainder of the space on Level 3.

Level 4

The City's administrative offices are located on Level 4, including the Mayor and CAO's offices, as well as Legal, Finance, Clerk's and Human Resources Departments. The Mayor's office generally reflects the personality of its occupant with photos of various dignitaries and other memorabilia of the person currently serving as mayor.

Level 5

The Engineering Department, including the Planning and Building Divisions, occupies this floor.

Level 6

Level 6 is occupied by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.

Level 7

The Penthouse has a spectacular view of the rapids, the Tower of Martyrs, the Union Carbide building (built from sandstone* that was excavated from the building site of the Canadian and American Locks), the American Sault, Algoma Steel Plant, the foothills surrounding the City and the ships that traverse the River.

* Note: many historic buildings on both sides of the river were built from the stone that was excavated for the construction of the Lock Systems.

The Civic Centre was designed so that the rooms either have a view of the river with its ever-changing seasonal panoramas, or face inward overlooking the interior arboretum which occupies the area extending from Level 3 to Level 6.

Artwork is located throughout the building. Council commissioned six paintings by local artists, Ken Danby, Ken Bradford, Ken McDougall, Doug Hook, Zolton Szabo and Margaret Barnett. Different mediums and community themes are identifiable in these paintings. Briefly, here is a description of their work:

  • Ken Danby - "Boat In The Locks" considerable research went into this; as previously mentioned, it is placed in the Hamilton Room. Danby, a world-famous artist, passed away in 2007.
  • Ken Bradford - "Cairn at Gore Street" is located on Level 2. Mr. Bradford is a renowned and highly successful artist.
  • Ken McDougall - Another well-known local artist painted "The Duck Pond at Bellevue Park" which is done in acrylics and can be seen on Level 4.
  • Zolton Szabo - "Topsail Island" at Bellevue Park is also in the reception room. Mr. Szabo is internationally known.
  • Doug Hook - A resident of St. Joseph Island, Mr. Hook is especially known for his paintings of the Tall Ships, but does not confine his talents to this area. For this building, he did a watercolour of the "Old Stone House" which may be viewed on Level 4.
  • Margaret Barnett - "Old Ferry" depicts the typical ferry boat used before the construction of the International Bridge to ferry people back and forth between the two Saults. It is a watercolour in the old masters' style and can be seen on Level 2.
As well, there are lithographs and paintings throughout the building, particularly in the Council Chambers.

Armstrong Paintings

William Armstrong’s paintings depicting the Indian life of this area, as well as village life centred around the Hudson’s Bay Fur and Trading Post, were presented to the City by Mr. Hamilton, a descendant of Henry C. Hamilton, the first solicitor and an early mayor of this city. Because of the friendship between Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Hamilton, this unique and valuable collection was entrusted to the City. Today, after restoration and reframing, the collection is stored at the Art Gallery of Algoma, which is climate-controlled and best suited to preserving these unique paintings.

A Brief History of Mr. Armstrong

Born in Dublin Ireland, William Armstrong and his wife came to Toronto in 1851, where he died in 1914 at the age of 93. As a Civil Engineer, he designed and built important parts of the old narrow gauge Grand Trunk Railway. Bridge building, however, was not all of a Civil Engineer’s duties at that time. In 1870, William Armstrong left with Colonel G. Wolseley as Chief Engineer on the first Red River Expedition. This was the expedition that brought Mr. Armstrong into contact with our region. The wildlife, natural beauty and scenic vistas of this area lent themselves beautifully as subject matters for his sketches and paintings.

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