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Bidding to Construct the Peel County Court House and Jail

It was about this time that Jesse became personally affected by the separation of the counties of Peel and York. There were two conditions to Peel County obtaining governance independent of York County. One was the selection of a county seat. After a great amount of time and controversy, Brampton was selected for that purpose. The second condition was that in the location of that seat there would be constructed the requisite county buildings, namely a jail and a courthouse. …

… The courthouse was to be built on Main Street on a slight hill overlooking the Etobicoke Creek…The jail was to be built behind the courthouse on Wellington Street.

William Kauffman, a well-known Toronto architect, designed both buildings. The courthouse was to be particularly distinctive. Although the three-story brick façade was generally flat, the vertical centre third would protrude slightly, accentuating the building’s main point of entrance. The brick would be enlivened with over thirty tall windows, each topped with rounded mouldings. The eaves of the roof would be supported by dozens of decorative brackets. A Byzantine onion-shaped dome cupola would crown its roof. The jail, which would be seen by fewer people, being on Wellington Street rather than Main, was more functional in design. A large, square building, it was to be built of blocks of rusticated stone, displaying architecturally the firm, hard hand of the law to those who broke it.

These were exactly the sorts of prestigious buildings that Jesse dreamed of building. The construction of each would be a large project with an enormous budget involving copious amounts of material and a great number of specialized trades. The county knew this, and so there was no question that the construction contracts would be publicly tendered. As able as Jesse felt to manage the project himself, he believed he needed someone else to support him in his bid. He teamed up with Richard Clow, a fellow mason-trained contractor, and the two prepared to submit bids for both projects. The pricing of the building materials was obviously key. The specifications for the courthouse required it to be clad in brick. Jesse was by then well acquainted with the brick manufacturers in the vicinity …..

Clow and Jesse met with Jesse’s usual brick supplier, obtained a quote from him, calculated their costs, and added a forty percent mark-up. That was less than Jesse’s standard mark up. Jesse and Clow were prepared to earn a little less on the project for the prestige and privilege of building so monumental a structure on Brampton’s main street.

The bid for the construction of the jail was a different matter. Although Jesse had worked with stone with his father in England years earlier, he had not yet built anything out of stone in North America. He was wildly excited at the prospect. One of his first challenges was to obtain a supply of stone. ….

After making a number of inquiries, Jesse assembled a list of possible suppliers and set off for what he thought would be a two-day tour of quarries. The excursion took much less time, for the first quarry he toured became the only quarry he toured. It was a small quarry at the Forks of the Credit…. Jesse was impressed with the quality and quantity of the small quarry’s stone. Its colour and texture were extremely uniform. The extraction processes, which he witnessed, was efficient and careful. The delivery record of the owner was by his account (and a matter Jesse subsequently verified) excellent. As for the price—well, the price could not be better, for the vendor was prepared to provide the stone to Jesse at his cost.

Jesse was shocked by the suggestion, but the proprietor soon enlightened him, claiming that he owed Jesse a large debt. Jesse tried to dissuade the proprietor from that view. But as Jesse ran his fingers along the slight scar on his right cheek and considered the pleasure, privilege, and prestige that would come of building that jail—something he could only do with a successful bid—he consciously applied less force to his argument than he might have otherwise.

It had been eight years since the two men had seen each other. Jesse did not recognize him. His hair, though equally red, was longer then than it was when they were involved in that fracas on the Halifax pier, and the man was—if it was at all possible--even more stout. He looked like the very block of stone Jesse might chisel. As for his voice, Jesse had heard too little of it on that pier all those years earlier to recognize it. By the time Jesse saw him again, Tobias Pichler, as Jesse now knew him, could converse in English. His heavy Austrian accent was no barrier to the communication of the essentials of their transaction. Once the bargain was struck, Jesse tried to provide the proprietor with a public acknowledgment of his donation.

“Acknowledgement? What do you think I am? A philanthropist? You tell someone that I made a donation to a civic cause, and I will have every village, town, county, and church looking for one. My condition? You keep it secret. It’s between you, me, and Clow.”




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Chapters Indigo

Ben McNally