As the four bank robbers crept out the jail window, escaping into the night, they must have silently thanked their lawyer. After all, he had smuggled in the hacksaw they used to cut through the window’s iron bars. Freedom, though, was short-lived: police nabbed them within eight days.
The year was 1952 and the setting for this caper was Toronto’s Old Don Jail, on Gerrard Street just east of the Don River. Since opening in 1864, it had become the scene of dramatic escapes, not to mention murders and hangings. By 1977, it closed, and the prisoners moved to a more modern facility next door. Then, in 2013, the new jail closed as well, and the City tore it down.
But in the past two years, the true Old Don Jail has enjoyed a second life: it houses the offices of the Bridgepoint Active Healthcare Campus. And its main courtyard will soon be a serene city park that features short walking paths, new trees and picnic-ready sitting areas. It will officially open in the spring. Meanwhile, the old jail itself is open to the public, so you can drop by for a free self-guided tour — open weekdays from nine to five — and peek into a few cramped cells. Just don’t bring a hacksaw.
This story is from our Winter 2015 issue.
Photo by Braden Alexander