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Huron County Gaol National Historic Site of Canada

181 Victoria Street North, Goderich, Ontario, N7A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1973/11/15

General view of the gaoler's residence located at the Huron County Gaol, 1982.; Parks Canada Agency/ Agence Parcs Canada, 1982.
General view
Exterior view of the Huron County Gaol, showing the two-storey-high walls, 1995.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, J. Butterill, 1995.
Exterior view
Detail view of the Huron County Gaol, showing the three-storey octagonal central block under a shallow octagonal roof surmounted by a lantern, 1995.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, J. Butterill, 1995.
Detail view

Other Name(s)

Huron County Gaol National Historic Site of Canada
Huron County Gaol
Prison du comté de Huron

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1839/01/01 to 1841/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/04/06

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Huron County Gaol National Historic Site of Canada is a walled prison compound dating from the first half of the 19th century. It contains a three-storey octagonal prison building with wings, a gaoler’s residence, and five enclosed exercise yards. Located at 181 Victoria Street North in Goderich, Ontario, it now houses a prison museum. Official recognition refers to the buildings and the property on which they sit.

Heritage Value

Huron County Gaol was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1973 because:
- this remarkably preserved building follows Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design for prison construction.

The heritage value of Huron County Gaol National Historic Site of Canada resides in those aspects of the complex that illustrate the panopticon prison design. The Huron County Gaol was built between 1839 and 1841 when the town of Goderich was established as the county seat of the Huron District. The prison’s third storey initially accommodated a courtroom. Designed by Thomas Young of Toronto, it follows a British prison design created by Jeremy Bentham known as the panopticon plan. This design is based on an octagonal central block with radiating wings between which are wedge-shaped exercise yards. The complex, surrounded by thick masonry walls, served as a jail for Huron County until 1972.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1973, June 1975.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- the polygonal footprint of its exterior walls containing the central octagonal footprint of the prison block with its two rectangular radiating wings, and the square footprint of the gaoler’s residence;
- the profile of the complex consisting of the two-storey-high walls, the three-storey octagonal central block under a shallow octagonal roof surmounted by a lantern, and the two-storey gaoler’s residence under a truncated hipped roof;
- the unrelieved surfaces of the exterior walls broken only by major entrances;
- the coursed rubble stone construction;
- the symmetrical nature of the layout and the disposition of multi-pane sash windows with restrained, classically inspired features including an arched entrance of brick, an arched main entrance framed by pilasters and a pediment;
- its original metal work elements such as security bars, stairways and locks;
- surviving evidence of the original dual role of the main block as a prison and courthouse with the surviving layout of the central block as a large masonry cylinder with cells ranged around the outside walls, radiating partitions and open interior galleries;
- surviving evidence of other uses of the interior space including the chapel;
- evidence of the layout, decoration, materials, forms, and finishes of the gaoler’s residence;
- the integrity of longstanding routes of circulation, access and egress, and in particular the stone circular stair in the centre of the prison;
- surviving evidence of prison occupancy in the buildings and the yards;
- the location in the historic centre of Goderich.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1973/11/15

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1842/01/01 to 1972/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Security and Law
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum

Historic

Government
Correctional Facility

Architect / Designer

Thomas Young

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

375

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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