Carleton County Jail (Ottawa Jail Hostel)

Before it was the Nation’s Capitol, Ottawa was a rough and lawless lumber town. Social liberalism was not a common value. The jail housed not only captured criminals, but also the indebted and mentally ill. Hundreds were crowded into small cells and conditions were abysmal. The courtyard was the location of Canada’s last public hanging, that of Patrick James Whelan, convicted for the murder of Thomas D’arcy McGee, one of Canada’s fathers of confederation. The hanging was viewed by over 5000 people, a huge number considering the population of the city at the time. There were many unofficial hangings, with unceremonious burials in the courtyard. When the area was excavated in the mid 70s for the construction of the Mackenzie Bridge, 140 unmarked graves were found.
The building now serves as a hostel. For a period of time, those who were able to spend the night on the eighth floor, which used to be Death Row, would have their stay for free. The practice was discontinued for the safety of the guests, who tended to descend from eighth floor at great speed. Guests who had made the attempt reported kicking from under the bed, a weight felt across their legs, or the sound of clanging chains.


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