Thursday, 27 August 2015

Spending the Night in Gaol: HI-Ottawa Jail

Did you know, the former Carleton County Gaol, in use until 1972, was purchased and converted into a hostel in 1974 by Hosteling International?
When we discovered this fact, we knew exactly where we'd be staying while in Ottawa. Not too much has changed since it's use as the main city jail aside from the addition of modern showers and washrooms on each floor. Old wood, thick doors and metal fixtures abound here.

look how narrow some of the cells were (not the ones for current guests)

When we first arrived the staff was so friendly and knowledgable about the area and events taking place during our time in the city. Towels and sheets were included with the room as well as breakfast. All pluses in my book. The breakfast, served in Mugshots Bar in the basement (former chapel and exercise room) was very basic with bagels, cereal, fruit, juice, coffee, tea; they had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the demand of the breakfast run.

Guards and inmates wore different colour footwear therefore one could identify who was on the stairs.

suicide grates, to prevent any deaths due to falling down the central stairwell.

doors to the rooms were original with the locks changed so we could leave the room once it was shut behind. The bottom and top of the doors had open bars and therefore noise in the hallway could be heard. 

There are daily tours of the jail, which of course we went on. Design features were pointed out by our guide and current manager of the hostel, and we even were brought behind the scenes to see the death row jail cell of Patrick Whelan (assassin of Thomas D'arcy McGee, Canada's first political assassination) before he was hung in the gallows; visible from the adjacent hillside while 5,000 people were in audience (roughly only 8,000 people lived in the city at the time).

As hostels go, this was a good'un. It's centrally located with a 24 hour front desk and very knowledgable staff. The bed was comfortable and it was quiet at the time we stayed there. I did read reviews of it being very noise with Grade 8 Grad trips visiting, I guess that's just luck of the draw.

Now for the question, I know you are all asking. Were there any ghosts?!
I didn't see or hear anything creepy, but there have been stories of Whelan appearing at the ends of beds in the death row wing. I'm not going to lie, after the bed, towels, and quietness, the slim possibility of encountering ghosts during our stay was a concern.

This is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. I stayed here back in July and thought it was a cool enough accommodation to share.

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