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Carleton County Gaol

75, Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1978/11/15

75-77 Nicholas Street. Built 1860-1862.  In 1970s, old jail converted into hostel.; City of Ottawa 2005
Carleton County Gaol/Ottawa International Hostel
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Other Name(s)

Ottawa International Hostel
Carleton County Gaol

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1860/01/01 to 1862/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/01/04

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Carleton County Gaol is located at 75-77 Nicholas Street, in between Wilbrod Road and Laurier Avenue East and consists of a three-and-a-half-storey stone structure in the Italianate style. The Carleton County Gaol was the first jail house to be built in the Ottawa area and was to serve the then new District of Dalhousie, later Carleton County. The building was completed in 1862 in conjunction with an adjacent courthouse and was designed by Henry Horsey. The Carleton County Gaol is currently used as a youth hostel.

The Carleton County Gaol is recognized by the City of Ottawa for its historical, architectural, and contextual value in By-law 380-78.

Heritage Value

The contextual significance of the Carleton County Gaol lies in its proximity to surrounding structures such as the Carleton County Courthouse.

The Carleton County Gaol is recognized for its historical value as one of the area's earliest prisons. The Carleton County Gaol opened in 1862 and served as a prison until its closure in 1972, after which the Canadian Youth Hostel purchased the building and began operating it as a youth hostel. The Carleton County Gaol tells the story of Ottawa's earliest prison inmates and incarceration system. The prison housed a wide range of inmates, from those who had committed minimal offences to murderers. The Carleton County Gaol is also the site of Canada's last public execution, which took place in 1869 when 5000 people gathered to watch the hanging of Patrick Whelan, Thomas D'Arcy McGee's killer. The Carleton County Gaol also exhibits historical value as it reflects the evolution of Canada's criminal code and illustrates the living conditions of Canada's earliest prisoners.

The Carleton County Gaol's architectural significance lies in its solid stone structure, which connotes strength and austerity in the vertical façade, bold window framing and imposing chimneys. The building is also a fine example of plans modeled after the Italianate style which began to appear in Canada in the 1840s.

Sources: City of Ottawa By-law 380-78; City of Ottawa File OHD-4300; Ottawa: A Guide to Heritage Structures, City of Ottawa (2000).

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Carleton County Gaol include its:
- limestone exterior and ashlar limestone on the front façade
- symmetrical portico with rounded arch and columns
- segmental arch windows
- pedimented stone dormers beneath the roofline
- centre dormer on the front façade surmounted by an elliptical pediment and flanked by brackets
- eight massive chimneys stacks in the larger structure
- rusticated piers on the corners of the front façade




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (ON)

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1869/01/01 to 1869/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Security and Law

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn


Correctional Facility

Architect / Designer

Henry Horsey



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

File: OHD4300/NICH 00075-00077 Records Office Ottawa City Hall, 4th Floor 110 Laurier Avenue West Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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