Haunting images of a decaying 152-year-old Canadian prison show what still remains of the abandoned building that once held notorious criminals, according to reports. The Winter Prison in Sherbrooke, Quebec, was built in 1865 and held some of Canada’s most dangerous criminals until 1990, when the facilities were moved elsewhere. The Housing Authority condemned the building in April 2007.
While it was saved from a wrecking ball by a local group committed to rehabilitating the facility, eerie snaps show that the building is still deteriorating. Paint is flaking from the graffiti-covered walls and rusted-over cell doors have been left flung open.
The incredible shots were taken by photographer Keven Lavoie, a 34-year-old from Montreal, Quebec. The future of the Winter Prison Complex still remains uncertain, according to the National Trust for Canada.
While local groups are committed to saving the structure, the costly endeavour has been difficult to finance. Built in 1865 by Charles Côté following the architecture plans of Frederic Preston Rubidge, the stone building, which is located next to the Magog River, is the third oldest structure in Sherbrooke. The facilities opened for use in 1870.
Over the course of its use from 1870 to 1990, six hangings were performed – all taking place between 1880 and 1930. The death sentence was abolished in Canada in 1976. Facilities include six wings, including one for isolation, featuring 51 single and double cells as well as six additional cells in the basement.
There was also a parlor, a chapel, an infirmary, kitchen and laundry room in the building. Over the course of it’s 120 years of operation between 1870 and 1990, several criminals went in and out of the Winter Prison Complex in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Before the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, six people were hanged at the facility. Bill Gray was the first to be hanged in 1880 for the killing of Thomas Mulligan. Until the day he died, Gray maintained his innocence.
Next up was William Wallace Blanchard in 1890. He was found guilty of the murder of Charles Calkins, a friend who was killed during an orgy. A week later, Remi Lamontagne was hanged at the prison after being found guilty in the murder of his brother-in-law, Napoleon Michel.
He had beat Michel almost to death before placing him between to matresses and setting them on fire. The next hanging at the prison didn’t occur until February 1931 when Antonio Poliquin was executed for murdering his wife, Maria Ceminero.
The couple had an 18-month-old son and Ceminero was two months pregnant when she was killed. Months later, in May 1931, Albert Vincent was hanged after being found guilty of farmer Edmond Trudeau.
The final hanging at Sherbrooke took place in May 1932, when Albert St-Pierre was executed after being found guilty in the murder of Rene Malloy, who died in a shootout in 1930. Aside from its death row inmates, the prison held others awaiting extradition and an outlaw who stayed at the jail for two years while awaiting trial.
Among them was DOnald Morrison, who was nicknamed the Outlaw of Lac-Megantic, who killed a bounty hunter who’d been sent to find him in 1887. He remained on the run for two years before being captured and sent to Winter Jail as he awaited trial.
He was later sentenced to 18 years and taken to St Vincent-de-Paul, a jail located in Laval. Harry K Thaw was imprisoned at the jail after killing his Stanford White, who allegedly sexually assaulted his wife when she was a teen.
Thaw’s wife, actress Evelyn Nesbit, had become friends with New York socialite Stanford White at a young age. Thaw shot Stanford White in 1906 on the rooftop of Madison Square Gardens in New York following a theatre performance.
He fled to Canada after being put into an psychiatric asylum and was later captured and sent to Winter Prison as he awaited extradition. At one point there was a women’s ward, an area for workers and a checkpoint for those entering the prison.
The complex consists of the main and original building, as well as an interior court, a jailer’s house and a brick building that was added in 1940. Winter Prison maintained its original function until 1990, when facilities were moved to a more modern structure at the Talbot Prison, two kilometres southwest of the city.
In reaction to threats of demolition in 1989, the Société de sauvegarde de la vieille prison de Sherbrooke – or the Society for Preserving the Sherbrooke Prison – was created and saved the structure from being torn down.
While the organization submitted applications for heritage designation to the Ministry of Culture, little has been done and the structure is not protected under Quebec’s Cultural Property Act.