Historic courthouse in Thunder Bay converting to boutique hotel.

Author:Strong, Graham

What do you do with a century-old historic courthouse in Thunder Bay, Ont.? Why, you turn it into a boutique hotel, of course! Currently under renovations, the Courthouse Hotel has yet to set an opening date. Owner David Sun said that he believes it will happen soon.

"It's a little bit late," Sun said. "I'm trying for the end of August ... hopefully no later than September."

Since the former Superior Court of Justice Building is designated heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act, Sun had to agree to keep certain features including the main courtroom and the grand staircase in the front lobby. It's not hard to imagine how its Beaux-Arts architecture and interior details will come to life--and make the perfect backdrop for an upscale hotel.

"I just liked the building. I saw it and I thought, 'Wow, this is a good building,"' Sun said, adding he found the listing on MLS. "I want to keep its heritage, so there is more cost."

Sun said that the building is in remarkably good shape considering its age, and in fact there are fewer surprises than he expected. Not only is Sun preserving the past, he's going above and beyond by trying to marry the well-appointed features of this stately structure with the realities of running a modern hotel. For example, he is refurbishing original oak doors by replacing the glass with new oak panels so that they can be used for guestroom doors. He is also reclaiming oak baseboards wherever possible and using them in some of the rooms, along with polishing up an old wood-burning iron, oak and marble fireplace that will be used for decoration only.

The Courthouse Hotel will have 41 guestrooms altogether. Each will have its own unique size, shape, and feel. The smallest will still be about the size of a typical hotel room, though well appointed with touches such as oak trim, marble fireplaces, marble bathtub/shower enclosure, and other features depending on the room. There will also be larger suites suitable for families or business travellers who want a separate meeting room or expanded living space. Sun said that about 70 per cent of guests will be business travellers including medical professionals and other professionals visiting the city (some of the rooms overlook St. Joseph's Hospital, which is part of the St. Joseph's Care Group, the second-largest employer in Northwestern Ontario).

The Courthouse...

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