Travel Journal

Ottawa - August 23-24 - Spent a night in jail

(Sunday 26 August 2007) by Karin
The Angel of Gratitude
Got up early for a morning walk but returned to bed upon return. Too tired. Then got ready to spend my night in jail. Yeah, I slept in jail.:-? The HI hostel in Ottawa is located in the former Carleton County Gaol. Checked in and decided that it was time to hit one of the many museums. I choose the Canadian museum of Civilization. Canadas largest and most visited museum stands as an architectural achievement and offers visitors a thousand years of Canadian history, the worlds largest indoor collection of totem poles and the striking First Peoples Hall. Only had enough time for the Grand Hall, which illuminates Northwest Coastal Aboriginal cultures and offers explanations with an extraordinary display of totems, and the first part of the Peoples Hall which outlines aboriginal history, culture and art from sea to sea before I had to catch the bus back to the jail for the Crime and Punishment Jail Tour. A 60-minute guided historical tour of early prison life, death row, the Gallows and some ghost stories. Considered a model gaol in 1862, the new gaol (jail) quickly revealed itself to be less than ideal. Prisoners had little to do, confined to the corridor days, and their 3 x 9 foot cells (2.70 m x 90 cm) at night. No lighting, no ventilation, no heating, no toilets (in the beginning no windows). Until at least 1888 they also had no beds. Inmates slept on the damp floor. Prisoners had no regular access to washtubs, and in the beginning, no adequate supply of prison clothing was provided. The separation of hardened criminals from minor offenders was inadequate, punishments were unnecessarily harsh, children lived with their mothers in the jail, etc. Many of these conditions persisted throughout the gaols history. It became known as a "monstrous relic of an imperfect civilization" and was closed in 1972 due to inhumane conditions. Death row consisted of four cells for prisoners awaiting execution. Measuring 6.5 x 10 feet, they allowed some movement as their occupants were unable to mix with the general population. Only three "official" executions took place here. The last one in 1869. Patrick James Whelan was executed for the assassination of Thomas DArcy McGee. He was tried and convicted, evidence against him was, at best, scant. After Whelan was hanged he was purportedly buried in a plot of land adjacent the jail. Its said that he haunts the site to this day. I read the ghost stories before going which definitely did not enhance my sleep8-O.
Angel of Forgiveness walked a long way with me today.
Got up at a reasonable time and walked to Byward Market to buy some breakfast. The hostel has a very good, central location near the Parliament Buildings, Byward market, etc. The rest of the day was spent discovering numerous outdoor public art pieces around town. Saw a lot of traditional commemorations honoring Canadian heroes and a few surprises from the world of contemporary art. The best place to start is of course at Parliament Hill. I made my way around the Hill and enjoyed the many artistic and architectural treasures of the neo-gothic buildings and explored the momuments and grounds. A bizarre quirck worth seeing is the stray-cat sanctuary, with dollhouse-like shelters. Parliament Hill has been home to these stray cats (raccoons, groundhog, squirrels, etc) since the late 1970s. I then enjoyed public art when I strolled along Sparks Street towards the Garden of the Provinces and Territories passing by the Library and Archives of Canada. Its funny that a few days ago I walked the same street and didnt notice the statues. Arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in time for the changing of the guard. I admired the Fairmont Chateau Laurent as I walked along the historic Rideau canal then moved on to Majors Hill Park and back to the Byward Market. Believe me.... a lot of walking in one day and I came home tired:-O. And I have not even seen half of the statues and sculptures :-(.
PS. To see more Ottawa pictures you'll have to go to the Gallery but the first (oldest) album. Enjoy.

  • terugvoer by Rudy
    • Happy by Karin
  • friend by Michele
    • Brussels by Karin
  • postbode by stephan
    • Hahaha by Karin
  • Raccoon by Natalia
  • ... still in jail? by Harald
    • Brussels by Karin
  • Happy traveling by Lynda

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