After years spent sitting empty the old Kings County Courthouse is once again bustling with activity, as staff from the town of Hampton began moving into their new office quarters this week.
At one point many feared the 145-year-old building would be demolished when the province closed it in 2013 without a buyer in sight. The municipality bought the historic structure for $1 and has been renovating it since earlier this year.
"It's been a busy week," said Town Manager Richard Malone as he stood among offices where some doors are still missing windows.
"The whole week has been part of moving everything in and getting set up."
Those final touches including IT installation and some wiring, which Malone said should be done by the end of the week.
While the building may have been purchased for $1, the final price tag will be more than $1 million. Around half the funds came from grants offered by programs at ACOA and the provincial government.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities kicked in thousands in grant money, along with a loan of $575,000. The balance will be paid for by the town, Malone said.
Much of the work was focused on the building's interior. While upgrades have been made, there has been a focused effort to leave defining character pieces.
Office supplies for the reception area are now kept in an old holding cell which was still in use up until the court closed in 2013. The room could be the most secure location for stationary in the entire province.
From courtroom to council chambers
The high ceilings and crown molding definitely stand out in the building's hallways, but the former courtroom on the top floor is its crown jewel.
"I think it's quite magnificent, actually" said Mayor Ken Chorley standing inside the room, which is now the new council chambers.
Chorley's new office is the former judge's chamber to the left of the room. If he wants, when council meetings begin, he can take the secret entrance from his office to his desk.
"It's very cool," he said of sitting in the same seat where justice was handed out for so many years. "Actually, it's a little unnerving."
Malone said while the room was altered for council meetings, most of it has remained intact. The juror's box is gone, but the vaulted ceilings and the original railing dividing the gallery were preserved. Along with council meetings, the room will also be used for community cultural events.
Chorley said there were a lot of emotions around the building when its future was uncertain, something he notes many other New Brunswick mayors may be feeling with heritage buildings in their communities.
Chorley recommended doing the right analysis for those buildings to avoid any costly surprises.
"In the long run, they're certainly worth preserving as long as you have an intact building to start with," he said.
The building will be open to the public for the grand opening Friday evening. After tours and a ceremony, Hampton's Christmas tree will be lit on the front lawn.