Amid the rehabilitation of the Don Jail complex as part of the Bridgepoint Hospital project, Heritage Toronto unveiled two plaques on March 22 commemorating the Gatekeeper's House and the Governor's House. Both designated buildings under the Ontario Heritage Act, the houses are historically significant properties on the Don Jail grounds.
The Gatekeeper's House, built in 1865, accommodated the Don Jail's gatekeeper. In subsequent years, the jail's deputy governor lived in the residence. From the time the jail was built to 1888, the central administration block of the Don Jail housed the "Head Gaoler", also known as the Governor. Toronto architect Charles Mancel Willmot completed interior alterations to the jail in the late 1880s and also designed a dedicated residence for the Governor, now known as the Governor's House. The house was used as a residence for the Governor up until 1974 when it was re-purposed as a halfway house for prisoners who had completed their sentences. Fronting onto Gerrard Street, the Governor's House with its decorative brickwork is an example of Gothic Revival style architecture.
To an audience of about forty people inside the St. Matthew's Bowling Clubhouse, including representatives from ERA Architects and the Riverdale Historical Society, Heritage Toronto unveiled the plaques that will be placed on the properties. Heritage Toronto's Plaques and Markers Program has existed for nearly forty years and recognizes important people, places and events which have helped shaped the city.
The houses were recently restored after a long period of neglect which left many of the architectural features in disrepair. The Governor's House is now being used as a children's hospice operated by the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care, with the Gatekeeper's House acting as an administrative space for the centre.
The entire Don Jail complex is undergoing rehabilitation which has already seen the former Riverdale Hospital demolished and the historic Don Jail restored and converted into offices for the new hospital, Bridgepoint Health. The provincially-operated Toronto Jail, which was built in 1958 and closed this year, is currently undergoing demolition and will be replaced by a new public park facing Gerrard Street.
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