Penitentiary Museum

Lot’s of folks know Kingston has a history of being home to a number of correctional institutions, but did you know it is home to Canada’s Penitentiary Museum as well?

In recent years there has been ongoing media attention to Kingston due to changes in the federal government’s correctional institution policy. Last year was the closing of the prison farm at Collins Bay. Before that it was the closing of the women’s prison. Now, the icon of medieval prisons, the Kingston Pen – the front gate of which appears below –  is slated to be closed.

 Main gate of the Kingston Penitentiary

Those of us that have had the “pleasure” of driving by the Kingston Pen’s imposing walls, are wondering what’s in store in the long haul for this heritage building. And, it’s passing, makes Kingston’s Penitentiary Museum all the more important for folks that care about Canadian history, and in particular, the history of Canada’s penal institutions. Not just those in Kingston Ontario, but Canada wide.

Penitentiary Museum in a house?

In 1870, the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, authorized the construction of the official Warden’s residence of Kingston Penitentiary. The warden’s residence became known as Cedarhedge due to the magnificent cedar hedges that once lined the property.

Cedarhedge - the warden's home in Kingston and the home of the Canadian Penitentiary Museum

Now Cedarhedge houses the Canadian Penitentiary Museum, a museum that enjoys more than 25,000 visitors a year.

If you travel West on King Street from downtown Kingston, a drive that soon takes you out past the hospital, parts of Queen’s University, a water treatment plant that looks like anything but on the left, some gorgeous heritage homes and then you will arrive at the Kingston Pen on the left. The Penitentiary Museum is directly opposite the pen.

Penitentiary Museum offerings

The museum offers more than just artifacts. The eight display rooms (self guided tour unless groups of 10 or more) contain a broad spectrum of information about crime and punishment in Canada, as well as details of how Canada’s penal system dealt with inmate education and entertainment. It’s hard to think of a prison inmate needing entertainment, isn’t it? Find out why at the museum.

During the summertime, when the museum is open more frequently, it is staffed by volunteers whom themselves served in the correctional service. These folks can bring first hand experience to answering any questions you may have.

Being chased off the Kingston waterfront by too cold or wet weather. Consider spending a little time indoors at the Canadian Penitentiary Museum in Kingston Ontario.

For more information about visiting the Canadian Penitentiary Museum, visit their website:

Comments about your visit to the Penitentiary Museum are welcome using the comment box below.

2 thoughts on “Penitentiary Museum”

  1. In 1941, I was born in Cedarhedges! My Dad, Arthur Pedder, was the Plant Engineer and we lived there.. Later this month, I’m excites to return with my Granddaughter to show her my “home” 🙂

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