The historic stone wall wrapping perimeter of the former Lindsay Prison will be demolished
KAWARTHA LAKES – The historic stone wall surrounding the Lindsay Old Gaol Museum will be demolished by fall 2022 after city staff deemed it unsafe.
The property is designated for its historical and architectural significance as the former Victoria County Jail. Built in 1863, the prison is constructed of white limestone using the Neo-Romanesque style, which was frequently used for penal establishments in the mid-19th century. Designed by Toronto architectural firm Cumberland and Storm, it is considered a local landmark.
The building was decommissioned as a prison in 2003 with the opening of the Central East Correctional Facility and is now owned by the city. The building now houses the Old Gaol Museum.
The property includes a large walled exercise yard. The original wall was demolished and replaced around 1989 and the current wall continues to deteriorate according to city officials. The new walls were built when the property was still an operational correctional facility. In 2017, building and property staff commissioned an assessment of the wall, which found that the structural integrity of the walls had been compromised. Since that time, the City says several reports have been prepared by qualified engineers confirming the structural problems of the wall.
In 2019, Kawartha411 revealed the history of demolition plans already underway. To find out more, click here: part-of-the-yard-wall-in-lindsays-former-prison-to-demolish
According to the Historical Society, the courtyard is where the hangings took place and at least three bodies are buried there. The bodies have since been moved. Gallows were built for each hanging and then removed. The courtyards were also used by inmates for recreation and exercise, forced labor sentences, and at first the inmates chopped the wood that heated public buildings in the city.
Officials say the future use of the open yard has yet to be “fully determined”. There are reports that it could be used for city parking, but this has not been confirmed.
Museum officials told Kawartha 411 News that the basic space plan consisted of parking for the museum, green space and the southern courtyard space set aside for a future addition to the museum.
âEvery effort will be made to ensure that the space is both useful and attractive to the community. There are no architectural drawings approved by the council at this time. The museum plans to create an additional exhibition to the one we currently have on the history of the walls and the preservation of photographs and artefacts is underway. said Barbara Doyle, Old Gaol Museum.
âThe courtyard walls need to be demolished, and I’m just relying on the technical comments I’m reading, this has been continually reviewed by an engineer and found to be unsafe,â Mayor Andy Letham said. âI’m not an engineer, but if so many engineer visits claim they aren’t safe (the walls), they have to come down. At the end of the day, we can’t have dangerous walls.
Professionals attempted to stabilize the wall to prevent the wall coping from falling to the ground below, but independent structural engineers continued to provide reports indicating that the walls still have a significant health and safety issue.
As a result, demolition has been approved by Council, by the end of the first quarter of 2022. The City says every effort will be made to maintain the wall as much as possible for historic purposes.
Before this final decision was made, staff from the Kawartha Lakes Municipal Heritage Committee requested that the demolition of the outer courtyard wall be postponed until a feasibility study for the cultural center was completed and a plan for the future of space is decided.
But on August 10, council proposed to proceed with the demolition but, recognizing the historic significance of the courtyard wall, asked staff to consider a possible piece of heritage recognition for the structure.
“We all get its value, but at the end of the day, if it’s not safe, it’s not safe,” said Mayor Letham. “We have a report that says it’s not safe, it doesn’t go any further than that, we have to do what’s safe.”