Description of Historic Place
The Former Prison for Women, also known as Building A3, is located within the enclosed complex at Kingston Penitentiary. This three-storey, stone building features a rectilinear plan, a classically detailed main entrance, and a shallow hipped roof cupped with a cupola. Bands of large, rectangular windows are evenly spaced around the façades. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Former Prison for Women is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Former Prison for Women is strongly associated with the evolution of thought in Canadian penology. In particular, the separate treatment of female prisoners, the employment of outside cells, and behaviour modification through classification and distinctive treatment. Women first admitted to Kingston Penitentiary in 1835 were housed temporarily in the prison hospital and then in the north wing. In 1913 the women inmates moved into the first separate facility for women in Canada known as the “female department” of Kingston Penitentiary. Overcrowding led to the establishment of a separate prison for women outside of the Penitentiary complex in 1934. The Former Prison for Women became a facility attempting to segregate and offer specialized treatment to inmates of different types and later became an administrative building.
The Former Prison for Women is a very good example of modernized classical revival architecture. Classical features of this style include the rectilinear plan, the classically detailed main entrance and the small, central cupola. Modernized features include the windows grouped in vertical bands and the ashlar quoins used to trim the regularly spaced window recesses. This building is the only existing building at Kingston Penitentiary, attributable to Henry H. Horsey, an architect who specialized in prison design.
The Former Prison for Women is compatible with the present character of its institutional setting at the Kingston Penitentiary.
Sources: Dana Johnson, Kingston Penitentiary, Kingston, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 89-032; Prison for Women (A-3), Kingston Penitentiary, Kingston, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 89-032.
The following character-defining elements of the Former Prison for Women should be respected.
Its modernized classical revival architecture, for example:
- the rectilinear plan and the medium-pitched, hipped roof capped by a small central cupola;
- the masonry construction;
- the moulded main cornice and the main entrance which consists of two flanking pilasters capped by an entablature;
- the arrangement of windows grouped in vertical bands with two or three superimposed large rectangular openings separated by panelled spandrels;
- the ashlar quoins used to trim the regularly spaced window recesses.
The manner in which the Former Prison for Women is compatible with the present character of the institutional setting at the Kingston Penitentiary, as evidenced by:
- its modernized classical revival architecture, scale and materials which are compatible with the adjacent structures within the institutional complex.