In honour of Halloween, we thought it appropriate to look back at one of the most popular sites on Ottawa’s Haunted Walks: the Carleton County Jail on Nicholas Street.


Credit: Wilson, N.D. / Library and Archives Canada / PA-044698

The maximum security Nicholas Street Gaol was opened in 1862 as one of the area’s earliest prisons, intending to be a new model jail for prison reform and rehabilitation of prisoners. It fell far short of this however, instead becoming a site of a variety of inhumane and unsanitary conditions (Sound familiar?). In 1869 it played host to the public execution of Patrick James Whelan, by hanging, for the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee.


Female Prisoners outside of their cells. Credit: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-027437

The jail was closed in 1972 and its prisoners were transferred to the new Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. In 1973 it was re-purposed into a hostel. The building remains a heritage building under the City of Ottawa By-law 380-78.

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2 thoughts on “#ThrowbackThursday: Carleton County Jail

  1. The late Justice Morin and I defended a person in 1967 accused of 1st degree homicide. Pending trial he was kept in the “death cell” located beside the permanent gaol. His exercise, during the day, was in front of the gaols. He had just recently imigrated to Canada from Italy. He spoke no English. We had to conduct all interviews, with the accused, through an interpreter at the jail. The accused did not understand the Canadian Justice system and each day thought he was about to face being hanged.
    He was acquitted at trial.

    1. Wow, well that is depressing! In researching for this post I did try to find out more about the living conditions at the jail since I saw it mentioned a couple times, but hadn’t come up with much so that is quite interesting. One of these days I’ll have to get myself down to the city archives. Thanks so much for sharing!

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