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Visiting the Former Jailhouse, Tweed, Ontario: Dating From 1898, Claimed as the Smallest in North America

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Photograph of the former jailhouse in Tweed, Ontario, being used as a tourist information centre.  Source: Community Archives of Belleville & Hastings County

Photograph of the former jailhouse in Tweed, Ontario, being used as a tourist information centre. Source: Community Archives of Belleville & Hastings County

'This house to let, unfurnished' ?

Designed by R. F Houston, and dating from 1898, this former Jailhouse in Tweed, Ontario, is claimed as North America's smallest.

It was withdrawn from service in 1950.

Measuring 4.8 by 6 metres (1), it might be thought that herein lay the reason for its unsuitability for further use. Too small?

In fact, in a manner of speaking, it was withdrawn for the opposite reason.

Before I elaborate, are the politicians listening intently to learn about whatever brave experiment in social engineering it might have been that led to this facility being surpassed?

Well, to disappoint the theorists of social engineering, the actual reason for the Jailhouse's withdrawal from service in 1950 was because Tweed just did not have any crime for which it might be worth maintaining it.

Businesses closing down for a lack of a clientele make for disappointment...except at Tweed, Ontario... (The dubious notice put on the House of Commons by Charles I comes to mind: 'This house to let, unfurnished'...)

The building now serves, not to dissuade, but to attract: the former Jailhouse is used — to attract visitors to Tweed — as a tourist information centre.

The now prestigious site of Tweed's tourist information centre is at 61 Victoria Street North, Tweed, Hastings County, Ontario (2).

I could not resist including William Morris's poem 'In Prison':

'Wearily, drearily,
Half the day long,
Flap the great banners
High over the stone;
Strangely and eerily
Sounds the wind's song,
Bending the banner-poles.

While, all alone,
Watching the loophole's spark,
Lie I, with life all dark,
Feet tether'd, hands fetter'd
Fast to the stone,
The grim walls, square-letter'd
With prison'd men's groan.

Still strain the banner-poles
Through the wind's song,
Westward the banner rolls
Over my wrong.'

William Morris (1834-1896) (3)

November 25, 2020

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(1) See also:

(2) See further contact details at:


Also worth seeing

Tweed also has many striking, property frontages with ornate cornices approximately 100 years old, along Victoria Street; the Tweed and Area Heritage Centre is at 40 Victoria Street; fishing opportunities are sought at nearby Stoco Lake.

Belleville (distance: 39.1 kilometres) is the stately, High Victorian Gothic Revival City Hall, built in 1872/73, of which its tower is a major feature of the City's skyline; Glanmore is a National Historic Site of Canada, containing fine, late 19th century furnishings; in the summer months, a gigantic Canadian Maple Leaf flowerbed comprised of begonias has faced Highway 401, close to Quinte Mall.

Kingston (distance: 90.6 kilometres) visitor attractions include: Fort Henry; Bellevue House; the Neoclassical City Hall; the Frontenac County Courthouse; Portsmouth Village; the Flora MacDonald Confederation Basin; and many others in this historic city, highly significant in the history of Canada.


How to get there: Tweed is situated on Highway 37, leading north from Highway 401 at Belleville. Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport (distance from Tweed, Ontario: 89.3 kilometres), at Kingston, Ontario is served by Air Canada, offering scheduled flights to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide flight connections, and by charter airline Brock Air Services. Car rental is available from Kingston/Norman Rogers Airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on November 27, 2020:

It's still there. I have driven by it many, many times. It is really easy to miss too because it's so small lol.

Tweed is a small town but even so, if one does not drive slowly, it will be missed.

Thank You for writing about this. I thought about showing-off this little jail house but I never did so, it's great that You did. Cheers!

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