TORONTO was once known as a city of multiple churches and relentless conservatism. But like all cities it was oftentimes naughty, and you can experience some of that in the Police Museum and Discovery Centre, the Old Don Jail and, until April 30 ‘Vice and Virtue‘, a stellar exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library. All are free.
You’ll find the Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre on the ground floor of Police Headquarters, 40 College Street, open Monday to Friday from 8:30am – 4pm. Elmer the Safety Elephant, the Boyd Gang, an old fashioned police station, traffic signals, handcuffs, finger printing, a motorcycle and police car, photographs, models – they’re all here. Kids love it, and the exhibits are adult-friendly as well.
Self-guiding yourself through the Old Don Jail is something completely different. THE DON is a heritage building with a very shady past, our city’s Alcatraz, site of 70 executions and numerous escape attempts, home-from-home in the 1950’s for the notorious Boyd Gang, minuscule cells, segregation cells, punishment cells, the Polka Dot Gang’s temporary residence – and now it’s been given one of Canada’s finest restorations and is open to the public for self-guided walk about tours.
It’s a kinder, gentler place now, and you’re welcome to visit from Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, from 9am to 5pm. Groups of 15 or more must arrange their visit in advance. Call 416-461-8252 and ask for the Communications Department.
Streetcar #506 travels along Gerrard Street East to the Don. It’s near the corner of Broadview & Gerrard.
From the Baldwin Collection of Canadiana, Toronto Reference Library, a look at moral reform in a city facing rapid growth and industrialization at the turn-of-the-century. ‘Vice & Virtue’ explores changing attitudes and the regulation of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, homosexuality, delinquency and prostitution in the late 19th and early 20th century.