ONCE (FOR SOME) ‘GOING TO KINGSTON’ MEANT GOING TO ‘THE PEN’ – TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Kingston Penitentiary is closed to convicts, but open to tourists. British North America’s first penitentiary fronts onto Lake Ontario at 56 King St. West. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of KINGSTON’s better neighbourhoods. The Pen, as it’s commonly known, was constructed between 1833 and 1834 under the reign of King William IV. The first six inmates arrived on June 1, 1835.  Aerial photo by Rob Mooy/Metroland

My visit to The Pen began in fog, then drizzle and finally pouring rain.  Mother Nature was setting the scene.

Bungalows for private family visits – PTV’s

The Main Dome – ranges are below

Typical cell range

Limestone gray throughout – entrance to the prison shops

Aboriginal Grounds

In April/2012, the federal government announced Kingston Penitentiary would be closing for good in 2013 due to aging infrastructure and today’s complex and diverse offender population. Rain or shine there are daily 3-hour tours every 15 minutes, conducted by several former employees of the institution. Personal cameras are welcome but no tripods or heavy equipment. The buildings are not air conditioned.

For tour tickets ($42-$55) and detailed information go to http://www.kingstonpentour.com

Looking down on it all, the Penitentiary’s bell tower, which normally rang twice daily, more often in emergencies.  Guards were required to live within hearing range of these bells.

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