rusty_armour (rusty_armour) wrote,

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Tour of the Old Don Jail

One of my wishes came true today! Thanks to Doors Open Toronto, I was able to take a tour of the Old Don Jail. I have a particular interest in this building because it's the setting for my original fiction project. The jail was closed down in 1977, and the public doesn't have a lot of opportunities to see it. Well, there were a bunch of tours (and even ghost walks) in 2009 before Bridgepoint Health started its renovation project, and I stupidly missed all of it. In my defence, I hadn't had the idea for my crazy original fiction project yet.

Here's a very quick history lesson for anyone who's interested. The Old Don Jail opened in 1864 and is one of the oldest intact pre-Confederation structures in Toronto. It was designed by William Thomas in the Italianate style and was considered to be modern and humane when it was first built. With its skylight in the rotunda, and the glass floor, the jail provided natural light for its prisoners. Unfortunately, overcrowding became the norm, and politicians in the twentieth century tried to close it down because of its terrible conditions. The last executions in Canada (the hanging of Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas) were performed at the Old Don Jail on December 11, 1962. The Old Don Jail is now Bridgepoint Hospital's Administration Building, but, thankfully, 20% of the original building has been preserved, including the original exterior, the beautiful rotunda, the gallows, and some of the prison cells.

View of the exterior of the Old Don Jail

Some other exterior views

Main entrance to the Old Don Jail

Keystone that is thought to be Father Time

Close up of one of the columns in the main entrance portico. The grooves
are believed to represent a worm-eaten look (e.g. the ravages of time). Looks
like Howard from Last of the Summer Wine was right about stoneworm after all.

One of the cell wings that has been converted into office space

One of the cells that have been converted into an office

Cell wing with original cells intact

Closer view of some open cells

Cell with bed. Notice how tiny the cell is.

Closer view of bed inside the cell

View under the rotunda's glass floor

Entrance to the gallows. Hangings began to
take place in this indoor chamber in 1908.

The gallows

Gallows' staircase

Shots inside the rotunda. The rotunda was meant to intimidate
prisoners. Prisoners were sometimes whipped here and there
have been alleged sightings of a female spirit -- a woman who
supposedly hanged herself in her cell.

Rotunda walkways

One of the wrought-iron dragons supporting a walkway

Rotunda's glass floor

Rotunda ceiling

Tags: canadian history, doors open, toronto
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