The Don Jail

The site of the former Don Jail, now administrative offices for Bridgepoint Active Healthcare, pretty much blends right into the northwest area of Broadview Ave and Gerrard St. East.

Back when it opened in 1864, the Don Jail was the largest in North America and one of Toronto’s busiest jails, holding at one point over 550 prisoners. It was known as a “palace” compared to the City’s other jails at the time and held the view that fresh air, work and education should be part of the prison lifestyle. (The prisoners were known to work in adjacent fields in the Don Valley.)

It was also the site of the last public hanging in the early 1960s – the death pentalty was administered 70 times at the Don Jail. You can see the location of the death row cells on the second floor, walking distance from the gallows.

The Don Jail closed in 1977 and since being decommissioned in January 2014, many elements of the original structure have been preserved: exterior stonework, jail cells, gallows, windows and flooring and detailed ironwork in the rotunda. There are interactive displays about the site’s history so wander at your own pace. No admission.

Here are some views:

TRIP TIPS:

Getting there: Corner of Gerrard St. East just west of Broadview Ave, east of the DVP. On TTC, Broadview and Gerrard streetcars.

Low-down: Public access is between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are no guided tours but if you have a big group of 10 or more, you can request a guide through Bridgepoint’s Communication Department.

In the hood: Toronto Public Library Riverdale branch is next door. North along Broadview is Rooster Coffee. Riverdale Park East offers lots of greenspace to play and one of the best views of Toronto.

 

 

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