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Location DB > Canada > Ontario > Toronto > Old Don Jail
Old Don Jail
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 Database Info
created by yokes on 2/27/2006 11:32 PM
last modified by Emperor Wang on 7/23/2021 11:36 PM
Publically Viewable Publically Viewable
This location has been labeled by its creator as Public, and therefore can be viewed by anyone.
Big. Stone. Jail.

East wing was demolished in 2014. The original portion of the building now houses the administration offices of Bridgeport Healthcare (specifically for Emily’s House, a children's hospice.) Hard to say if they'll let you in for look around - I would guess not, as it would open the flood gates for looky-lous, although I would hope it will be included in Doors Open....
 Basic Information
Type: Building
Status: Repurposed
Accessibility: Difficult
Recommendation: drop everything - must see... if you can get permission.
 Physical Information
30 Jack Layton Way
Toronto, Ontario
Owner: Ontario Realty Corporation
  • See a map of this location
  •  Hazards
     Interesting Features
    Original stone and iron flooring, jail cells, ironwork... everything about the place is interesting.
     Security Measures
     Historical Dates
    Built: 1864
    Closed: 1977
     Required Equipment
     Recommended Equipment

    The Don Jail is a notorious municipal jail in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the Riverdale neighbourhood on Gerrard Street East near its intersection with Broadview Avenue. It is named for the nearby Don River.

    The current Don Jail was built between 1862 and 1865 (predating Canadian Confederation by two years) with most of the current jail facilities being built in the 1950s, although a jail has stood on the site since 1858. Designed by architect William Thomas in 1852, its distinctive façade in the Italianate style with a pedimented central pavilion and vermiculated columns flanking the main entrance portico is, ironically, one of the architectural treasures of the city and one of very few pre-Confederation (1867) structures that remains intact in Toronto. For example, it is over thirty years older than Toronto's Romanesque Old City Hall.

    However, owing to its sturdy construction, its interior has gone largely unchanged in the last fifty years as renovations would be both difficult and expensive, even in an empty facility. As such, it is considered badly outdated as a prison facility. Originally constructed to house 275 prisoners, its "rated capacity" is now 550, and its average prisoner load is about 620. In addition, as a "short-term" jail, it was not designed with adequate visitor facilities, exercise areas, telephones, lawyer meeting rooms, showers, or even laundry facilities. However, the average stay is 30-90 days, and many prisoners are kept there for months. Many attempts have been made to close it as politicians, international human rights organizations, prisoner advocate groups and even prison guards have decried its overcrowding and inadequate facilities. However, despite several attempts to close the facility, it remains open primarily to deal with the large number of remand prisoners awaiting trial. It is often overburdened by a large number of arrested persons awaiting arraignment.

    Courts have taken judicial notice of the deplorable conditions in "The Don" and judge Richard Schneider set a precedent of crediting persons serving time in the facility awaiting trial with three days for every day spent in the facility. The judge noted that the prison no longer met the minimum standards set by the United Nations. These conditions were also brought to light by a controversial article in the Toronto Star in which a reporter was smuggled into the prison by a sympathetic Member of Provincial Parliament, Dave Levac, MPP. Mr. Levac faced censure for bringing in the reporter, although as an MPP he had a right to free access to the facility.

    It should be noted that the prison is only for remand prisoners, and it does not hold any persons actually found guilty of an offence.

    The jail was the subject of the first ever television news report on the CBC English network when the Boyd Gang, a notorious group of bank robbers, broke out of the facility for the second time. The news anchor was future Bonanza star, Lorne Greene.

    The Don Jail was also the site of Canada's last hangings. On 11 December 1962, Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were hanged in the Jail's execution chamber. They had each been convicted in separate murder cases. (from Wikipedia: )
    The CBC has online the news story footage of the Boyd Gang's second escape from the Don Jail (their recapture lead to a special set of triple bars, photo in gallery, being installed in their area).

    "Unbelievably, the Boyd Gang busts out of the Don Jail a second time! For some reason, the four men had been placed in neighbouring cells. Soon they saw through the bars once more, and become the quarry of the largest manhunt in Canadian history. And it's not just newspapers covering the story now: the escape is the subject of the very first news report of the fledgling CBC English Television network.

    While in the Don Jail, Willie Jackson jokingly grabbed a key from the guards, offering to lock Steve Suchan in his cell. Jackson squeezed the key tightly, and soon after was able to trace the impression it left on his hand. He acquired a hacksaw blade and small piece of metal from an unscrupulous lawyer, and Boyd used them to fashion a working key that opened all four cells."
    Watch the report: http://archives.cb...ty/boyd_gang/clip4

    Toronto ‘Don’ Jail
    The last two executions in Canada were Arthur Lucas (#709) for shooting a Toronto Police Constable and Robert Turpin (#710) for the killings of a prostitute and pimp. They stood back to back, and were executed at two minutes after midnight on 11 Dec. 1962. A small group of vocal protesters has gathered outside the Toronto ‘Don’ Jail. Both were arrested, tried and executed in less than l4 months.

    Both were represented by the same defence counsel, Ross MacKay, who was devastated by the executions. Author Jack Batten says of him that, before "... he was a heavy drinker. Afterwards, he was an alcoholic. He lost his family, his practice, his money." Although he was able, years later, to rebuild his life and his career, he was one of the indirect victims of these cases.

    Chief Justice James McRurer, who sentenced Lucas and many others to death, later
    commented that "There was one good thing about Lucas' hanging. It was the last. Parliament ended the death penalty, and sentencing a man to hang is one part of the administration of justice that judges need have no fear of now."

    There were 34 persons hanged at the Toronto ‘Don’ Jail. There have been four York County or Toronto Jails since 1800.
    1872-02-22 – John Traviss – 20 years – murdered John Johnson
    1877-11-30 – John Williams – murdered Ann Williams (wife)
    1880-07-23 – George (Dickson) Bennett – murdered George Brown
    1888-02-18 – Robert Neil – 19 years – murdered John Rutlidge (prison guard)
    1890-02-12 – Thomas Kane – murdered Mary Kane
    1900-04-14 – William Henry – murdered John Varco (robbery)
    1902-07-18 – Fred Lee Rice – murdered William Boyd
    1905-03-10 – Alexander Martin - 22 years – murdered baby sons (7 months old)
    1908-01-08 – John Boyd – murdered E.A. Wandle
    1909-12-23 – Poral Steffoff – murdered Simoff
    1910-06-10 – Pasquale Ventricini – 45 years – murdered Raffael Fabbio
    1915-04-13 – Jan Ziolko – 31 years – murdered Tony Trendo (robbery)
    1919-01-03 – Hassen Neby – murdered George H. Tucker
    1919-06-13 – Frank McCullough – murdered Frank Williams (policeman)
    1921-08-03 – Roy Hotrum (Patsy Lewis) – 21 years – murdered Leonard Sabine (robbery)
    1921-08-03 – William McFadden – 33 years – murdered Leonard Sabine (robbery)
    1922-05-09 – Frederick (Danis) Davis – 46 years – raped Philip Goldberg (age 8)
    1930-03-24 – Edward Stewart – 33 years – murdered John Freeland (robbery)
    1931-07-14 – Abraham Steinberg – 50 years – murdered Samuel Goldberg
    1931-09-23 – John Brockenshire – 22 years – murdered Roy McQuillin (policeman)
    1933-02-03 – Ewart G. Warren – 26 years – murdered William Moore (robbery)
    1933-04-03 – Mike Tach (Michael Tkach) – 30 years – murdered Fannie Robulock
    1936-05-05 – Harry O’Donnell – 25 years – raped Ruth Taylor
    1938-06-30 – Thomas (Louis) Bryans – 38 years – murdered Norman Ford
    1939-10-04 – Bill Petrekowich – 29 years – murdered Annie Gerozenic (ex-wife)
    1940-07-03 – Joseph Dlugos – 41 years – murdered Annie Mysian
    1942-02-12 – Hugh Alex. William Newell – 27 years – murdered Aune Paalov (wife)
    1948-06-29 – Leslie Robert Davidson – 29 years – murdered Margaret Meredith (wife)
    1952-12-16 – Leonard Jackson (Fred Wilson) – 30 years – murdered Edmund Tong (policeman)
    1952-12-16 – Valent Lesso (Lenoff Suchan) – 24 years – murdered Edmund Tong (policeman)
    1956-11-21 – Robert George Fitton – 22 years – raped Linda Lampkin (13)
    1961-06-27 – Louis William Baldwin Fisher – 24 years – raped Peggy Bennett
    1962-12-11 – Arthur Lucas – 54 years – murdered Thomas Crater & Carol Newman
    1962-12-11 – Ronald Turpin – 29 years – murdered Frederick Nash (policeman)

     Media Coverage
    Anything involving the Bridgepoint Health site redevelopment plans.
     Future Plans


    Add your own story
     Photo Galleries
    Click to view gallery
    Inside the Old Don
    Mon, Feb 27th, 2006
    posted by yokes
    69 pictures
    Click to view gallery
    Aerial Photo and building key
    Tue, Feb 28th, 2006
    posted by yokes
    1 pictures
    Click to view gallery
    Closing Ceremony
    Wed, Mar 29th, 2006
    posted by CopySix
    1 pictures

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    Mark all galleries as Seen

    Sun, May 10th, 2009
    posted by Boffo
     Web Links


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    Category Rating
    Photography 8 / 10
    Coolness 10 / 10
    Content Quality 9 / 10
    This location's validation is current. It was last validated by Emperor Wang on 7/23/2021 11:37 PM.

     Latest Changes
  • on Jul 23 21 at 23:37, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Jul 23 21 at 23:36, Emperor Wang changed the following: Web Links
  • on Jul 23 21 at 15:52, fr00tCake changed the following: Security Measures, Required Equipment, Future Plans, Description, Web Links
  • on Jul 23 21 at 15:44, fr00tCake changed the following: Street Address, Latitude, Longitude, Status, Accessibility, Hazards, Security Measures
  • on May 11 09 at 10:45, Steed validated this location
  • on May 10 09 at 22:42, Boffo updated a panorama image
  • on Sep 17 06 at 20:19, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Jul 19 06 at 6:12, Jef changed the following: History, Web Links
  • on Mar 30 06 at 3:43, Emperor Wang validated this location
  • on Mar 29 06 at 21:50, CopySix updated gallery Closing Ceremony
  •  Forum Threads about this Location
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     SubjectStarted ByRepliesViewsLast Post
    You must log in for this feature to work.Gathering at Old Don on Dec. 10, 2008Zbigniew0148412/8/2008 10:13 PM by Zbigniew
    You must log in for this feature to work.Poll: New book on last hangings in Canada & Don JailZbigniew652946/4/2009 2:57 AM by rainman8889
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