Tweed jailhouse

You can visit North America's smallest jailhouse in this Ontario town

Ontario is home to a number of quirky roadside attractions, from The Big Apple off the 401, to an enormous brown and white fibreglass bull, lovingly known as "Big Bruce".

Another one to check off your list is found in the small municipality of Tweed, located halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. Here, you'll find a tiny jailhouse which claims to be the smallest in North America, measuring only 4.8 metres wide by 6 metres deep. 

The jail was built in 1898 and opened in 1900, with just 3 cells and a lobby. At just over 300 square feet, most of the prisoners or “vagrants” held there were sent there for minor offences, according to the municipality's website.

At the time, constables were paid 20 cents to watch over the inmates, and 30 cents if they had to feed them.

A man by the name of Gideon Butts was the most serious offender to stay at the Tweed jailhouse in 1903. Butts murdered his wife after claiming to have delusions that she was a serpent. He was only held there for one night, before being transferred to Napanee.

Another story told by a Tweed historian details a jailbreak. The local police chief picked up a man and housed him at the jailhouse. Not long after, the police chief saw him on the street and found that he had hacked his way out of the jailhouse door.

After operating for 50 years, the jailhouse closed due to - not too surprisingly - a lack of crime (at that time) in the town. The three small jail cells eventually merged into one, and a desk was put in the office.

It later became an office for the Ontario Provincial Police, before finally transforming into the information centre it is today.

Open only during the summer months, the jailhouse attracts visitors and tourists, who can snap photos behind bars and get information about things to do and see in the area.

If you plan to stop by, take some time to explore what else Tweed has to offer. There are tons of things to visit from cute cafes and quaint shops in town to exploring the Eastern Ontario Trails.

Lead photo by

Municipality of Tweed


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