One of the glories of Walkerton, Ont., is the county courthouse, a dignified structure made of grey brick. But its history is something the town fathers would rather forget.
Originally, the specifications for the building called for red brick, which was the fashion of the time, and the building job was awarded to a Toronto contractor on that basis. But, when figuring his costs, the contractor had mistakenly assumed that the local clay would make red bricks, and that he could make bricks cheaply in the area.
When he discovered that the local clay would make only grey bricks, there was consternation in his office. To haul in brick from a red-clay district would add nearly a thousand dollars to his costs and an involved transportation problem to his worries.
One of his lieutenants had an idea: suppose the contractor went to the county council and offered to knock a thousand dollars off the price if they would accept grey
brick. Would they do it? It would cut heavily into the profit, but it might save a lot of bother.
“No,” the contractor said. “Those old buzzards would have me over the barrel. It would only get me in deeper trouble.”
He had a much better idea. He journeyed to Walkerton and addressed the council. Walkerton, he said, could not afford to be cheap. They needed a courthouse that would be a permanent architectural gem. Red brick was all right in its place, for houses and factories, but for a courthouse something more was required. For an additional thousand dollars over the original contract price, he said, he would build a fine grey-brick courthouse that would be a credit to all concerned.
Walkerton’s fine grey-brick courthouse still stands as a reminder that a certain contractor made a clear thousand dollars through his knowledge of the psychology of county councils.
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