Pre-Confederation prison on the market in Perth

A pre-Confederation jail for sale in historic Perth, Eastern Ontario, could be yours for less than the price of an average Canadian home.

Before being mothballed by the provincial government in 1994, the Perth Gaol, an imposing neo-Gothic stone fortress, was the site of three hangings.

Now the 18 cells, gallows, walled courtyard and over a century and a half of macabre history can be had for $495,000.

But put that suitcase down – Perth’s “Big House” isn’t exactly move-in ready.

Abandoned for years, with water pouring through a damaged roof and virtually no air circulation, the prison has been subjected to its own punishment by the passage of time.

Current owner Mickel Alexander examines the ceiling of a series of cells in the 160-year-old prison in Perth. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Designed by famed Ontario architect Henry Horsey, whose name appears on dozens of town halls, churches and courthouses between Napanee and Kingston, the 1862 structure is a peeling, faded and damp shadow of her -same.

“As you can imagine, a prison has no windows that open,” said the real estate agent sentenced to find a buyer.

This week, Ian Shackell, real name, tapped the code on the estate agent’s safe and opened the main door to the 160-year-old building.

A wave of foul medieval-smelling air poured into the sunny parking lot.

“There’s no doubt there are a lot of challenges,” confessed the agent, who said plumbing, electrical and HVAC work would be needed.

Estate agent Ian Shackell said potential buyers of Perth Jail had suggested turning it into a boutique hotel or dormitory. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Shackell said the tirebreakers had considered turning it into a boutique hotel, a residence for students at Algonquin College’s Perth campus, just 300 meters away, an escape room or a multi-residential unit.

But this job will literally involve moving stone walls, many of which are a meter or more thick.

With the structure zoned for institutional use and protected by city heritage rules, it was difficult to strike a deal on the jail, Shackell said, although he said he had been assured Perth wanted “keep an open mind”.

If the challenges of renovations don’t put off the potential buyer, the grim tale of three executions might.

Many facilities, including 18 prison cells, remained intact. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Sentenced to hang for the murder of his wife Catherine in 1910, Rufus Weedmark was allowed to have visits from his young children in the hours before, with reporters at the time describing the scene as “extremely pathetic”.

“Before his daughters left yesterday afternoon, his youngest child, aged six, climbed into his doomed father’s lap and, looking him in the face, asked, ‘Why don’t you go home. home with us? ‘” Told the Perth Courier.

“Would you like to live there? asked a neighbor as she walked past the property with her dog on a leash last week.

She said her brother, a prison guard at the prison in the 1980s, once complained that his workplace was excessively dark and dingy.

Pandemic problems for the owner

“COVID has pulled the rug out from under me,” said Mickel Alexander, an investor from London, Ont., who bought the prison in 2019 with plans to shoot a reality TV show featuring its story and its restoration.

The delays caused by the pandemic, the skyrocketing cost of building materials, and the high price of the skilled labor that would be needed made the project out of reach.

Alexander bought the property in 2019 with the intention of filming a prison restoration reality show. (Stu Mills/CBC)

“I came here thinking I could do it for a couple million dollars, but the experts say $20 million,” he said.

Still, calling himself stubborn, Alexander said he would like to see his TV dream come true and offered to partner with an investor who shares his love of historic stone buildings.

The poor condition of the building frustrated local historian Susan Code for decades.

She said the prison’s closure in the 1990s was a politically motivated and economic act.

It was “a short-sighted decision – with no thought given to the follow-up,” Code said.

With the heating off for years, the interior of the building has suffered. (Stu Mills/CBC)

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