Hampton courthouse

The 145-year-old Hampton Courthouse building is a Designated Historic Space.

Hampton, New Brunswick's historic courthouse building is about to be transformed into a new town hall.

The 145-year-old designated historic site was sold to the municipality for $1 after court services were moved to Saint John three years ago.

Town officials recently gave CBC a tour of the building and showed off plans for a makeover that will include installation of new offices, washrooms, an elevator and an exterior ramp.

Courthouse plans

The former courthouse building will gain offices, washrooms, an elevator and exterior ramp.

The building's showpiece second storey courtroom, complete with mansard ceiling, will become a council chamber and community space that can be used for such things as music performances.

Hampton town Council decided to take on the project after a call for proposals failed to attract a plan they believed could sustain the building.

Town wanted building preserved

"We just can't let it go," said Hampton councillor Bob Doucet. "We have to get control of it now. And once we have control we can do what we want."

It is estimated the makeover will cost something more than $800,000.

Town Manager Richard Malone hopes provincial and federal grants will take care of as much as half of that amount.

Doucet says he hasn't heard a single complaint from the public about the town's initiative.

The message to council was clear, says Mayor Ken Chorley, the building must be preserved.

"We decided that we should do it because the people of the community wanted to retain the building," said Chorley. "In order the sustain the building it had to have a sustainable purpose."

Plan to move by fall

Chorley hopes town offices can be moved into the new space this fall.

The current council chambers in the nearby Centennial Building will be turned over to the Kings County Museum for exhibition space.

Other office space in the former municipal office building will be put up for lease.

"We'll be fine, actually. We'll be fine," said Chorley. "We've paid off the debenture on the old building, and what we're going to spend in here we can afford."

Hampton courthouse basement celler

The building's rough stone cellar includes rooms believed to have been holding cells.

Some features in the courthouse building are likely to remain as they have been for nearly a century and a half.

The cellar features rough stone walls forming hallways and a number of small rooms.

A couple of the darkest and most cave-like of these are believed by town officials to have been holding cells at some point in the distant past.