Known as the Barrie Bucket, the Old Barrie Gaol sits empty and unused. Ever try to break into a jail, this place is locked up tighter than a rusty bolt. Built in 1841 using local limestone to create two foot thick walls, the maximum security jail housed prisoners awaiting transfer to federal or provincial facilities, for trials, for sentences under 90 days, for sentencing and for an unlucky few, for the hangman's noose. Rumour has it that five souls where hanged at this facility and are buried in the inner courtyard, but that remains unconfirmed. Several prisoners did die here while in custody, that much is certain.
The gaol was designed by renowned architect Thomas Young, who also designed the uniquely similar facilities in Goderich and Guelph. The Guelph gaol is no longer with us, and the Goderich gaol, although damaged in the 2011 tornado, serves as a local museum.
Originally designed to hold 32 prisoners, subsequent renovations expanded the capacity to 82, although 100 was more typical. There was no light or toilet facilities in the old part of the jail, prisoners where provided with a bucket.
The last prisoner to use this jail was transferred to the new super-jail at Penetanguishene in 2001.
Currently the jail sits empty and unused, its future uncertain at this point. Local pressure would like to see it renovated into a museum, but funds required are out of reach. The current owners, the Ontario Realty Corporation, who also have no immediate plans for the future.
An Ontario Historical Plaque also marks this location, text as follows:
Simcoe County Court-House and Gaol
In 1837 the Simcoe District was established and authority was given for erecting a district court-house and gaol at Barrie. The gaol was begun in 1840, the court-house a year later, and both were completed in 1842. An important county judicial and administrative centre, the court-house was enlarged in 1877 and demolished in 1976. The gaol, designed by Thomas Young of Toronto and constructed of Lake Couchiching limestone by Charles Thompson, a builder and steamboat owner, is one of the few in Ontario based on the nineteenth century radial design concept. In 1862 the east wing and outer walls were constructed, and the present roof and lantern replaced a portion of the originally castellated central section. The gaoler's residence was added in 1902.