Toronto's Historical Plaques
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The Don Jail 1859-1864
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted September, 2006
Photo by Alan L Brown - Posted June, 2016
Photo Source - Wikimedia Commons
On Jack Layton Way near Broadview Avenue stands this 2006 Heritage Toronto plaque erected with the support of the Riverdale Historical Society which tells us about the Don Jail. Here's what it says:
Coordinates: 43.666172 -79.353004
The Don Jail is one of Toronto's most important mid-nineteenth-century public buildings. Located on a hill then outside City boundaries, it was constructed with exacting craftsmanship according to plans of William Thomas, Toronto architect and designer of other landmarks such as St. Lawrence Hall and St. Michael's Cathedral. Even though some cells measured only 1 by 3 metres, the Don Jail embodied progressive ideas of penal reform. It was once the largest prison of its kind in North America, and included a farm (now largely Riverdale Park) worked by prisoners. The building's Renaissance Revival style made jail appear suitably intimidating. Seventy executions took place on its gallows, including the last in Canada on December 11, 1962. After 113 years, the old Don Jail building was closed as a prison in 1977 - the east wing, completed in 1958, continued to serve as the Toronto Jail.
Here are the visitors' comments for this page.
> Posted December 18, 2013
We recently bought a home that had some old jail bars in basement. The owner said they were there from originally home owner who got them from the Don Jail back in the 70s. I want to find out if they really are! Can anyone help? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
> Posted November 30, 2011
Been in the old Don for over 6 months while waiting for others charges and court dates but those were them old crazy days of being young. I'm wondering can you buy pics of the Don like bars etc.
> Posted July 11, 2010
I would like to know if there are any visits into the old Don Jail coming up in the near future but I cannot find out anywhere. Does anyone know and if so please contact me at email@example.com with any info on any visits to view the inside. Please and thanks.
> Posted September 13, 2009
I thought they used an electric chair for executions. At least in the late 1940's and early 50's I seem to recall expecting the lights to dim as the current flowed. Of course I was just a kid back then.
> Posted June 11, 2009
The Don Jail is open for tours in the summer of 2009, prior to being converted into offices. It was open free during Doors Open in May this year, resulting in hours-long line-ups. See www.thedonjail.com for details on paid tours. Two men were hanged on the day of the last executions in the country: Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas. True Crime Library reports: "A hold-up man who snatched $632 from the till of the Red Rooster restaurant in Toronto in February, 1962, got clean away - until a traffic cop pulled him in for a broken taillight. The hold-up man, Ronald Turpin, 29, shot the cop, Frederick Nash, and then tried to escape in Nash's police car. He was caught almost immediately. Turpin was convicted of murder and sentenced to die by hanging. Arthur Lucas, 54, a black American, was also awaiting execution at the same time. In November 1961, he travelled from Detroit to Toronto to murder Therland Crater, who was scheduled to give evidence in a drugs trial along with his girl friend, Carolyn Newman. Lucas returned to Detroit after the double-murder but was arrested next day, and extradited to Canada before he was convicted. The Canadian Government held an emergency meeting on December 4th, 1961 to decide whether to commute the two death sentences, but the motion was thrown out. Accordingly, at two minutes after midnight on Tuesday, December 11th, 1962, Turpin and Lucas were taken to the execution chamber at Toronto's Don Jail and hanged. Other Canadian killers were more fortunate. Between 1957 and 1963 John Diefenbaker's Conservative government commuted 52 out of 66 death sentences, indicating that the end of the death penalty was near. When Turpin was told that he and Lucas would probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replied, "Some consolation." Capital punishment for murder was abolished in 1976, and for all other offences under military law in 1987. Worldwide Hangings from True Crime Library."
> Posted March 8, 2009
When will they be opening the old Don Jail for tours?
Laurie Brooks L_Brooks98@yahoo.com
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