(The Old Don)(Henneck Bridgeport Hospital)

550 Gerrard Street East, toronto, on

Status: Former Jail; Heritage Building; Former Hospital; Healthcare Office


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Don Jail building, entrance, winter.jpg

By <a href="//" title="User:Nadiatalent">Nadiatalent</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 4.0Link

Bridgepoint Hospital and Don Jail.jpg

By mark.watmough - <a rel="nofollow" class="external free" href=""></a>, CC BY 2.0Link


The original Don Goal was built between 1858 and 1864 including the Renaissance façade and a House of Refuge for vagrants, the dissolute and idiots. It is one of the oldest pre-Confederation intact buildings left in Toronto.

The jail was designed for short term stays while prisoners awaited arraignment for trial. It was originally called the “Palace for Prisoners” conditions were so good. As time went on waits began to get longer and the stays became 90 days or longer and the number of prisoners began to increase as the courts got more and more backed up.

Conditions became so deplorable judges began giving a credit of 3 days per 1 day spent there – as opposed to the normal 2 for 1 in Ontario at the time – toward their sentences and probation. In the end the jail was not even meeting the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners required by the United Nations.

Before the abolishment of Capital Punishment in Canada 60 people were executed by hanging at the jail. From 1908 all hangings took place inside – in a converted bathroom. After the British beat the French in the Seven Years War in 1759 hanging was the only means of execution used in British North America (Pre-Confederation) and then Canada.

The executed, and the others who died while in the jail, were buried in unmarked graves on the site. In 2007 an archeological dig on site found human remains and moved them to a proper cemetery.

The original Don Jail was closed in 1977 but the East Wing remained open as a jail December 31, 2013.

Bridgeport Health took over the building even before the East Wing was closed. They demolished the Riverdale Hospital on site which was for patients needing long term care and with chronic illnesses. They replaced with a 10 storey modern rehabilitation facility. They also occupied the old jail and used it as administration offices.

About 20% of the original jail’s interior has been saved including the punishment and death row cells as well as the gallows tower. These remain normally remain behind locked doors but are opened for special events like Open Doors Toronto. The gallows themselves were destroyed in 1977 by a government official; yah, not sketchy at all.

The preserved cells in the basement and the main rotunda in the building’s entrance are open to the public.

When the East Wing was vacated Bridgeport demolished it and turned it into green space.


Paranormal Activity

Reported Activity – most of which dates back to when the jail was still open – most commonly the phantom sounds of chains clanking – it happened so often when the jail was open that the guards searched the building seeing if any of the prisoners were out of their cells; a female prisoner who hung herself in her cell still screams in pain and horror which can be heard throughout the building.

Less commonly is the apparition of a guard still going about his checks on the graveyard shift; apparitions of former prisoners; unexplained knocking sounds; disembodied voices; phantom footsteps; light anomalies; empathic sensations of fear and loneliness and the feeling of not being alone and being watched.