Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ottawa Fire Insurance plans - Carleton Court House & Carleton County Jail

One of the current projects at the Map and Data library is the digitization of Canadian Fire Insurance Plans & Atlases.
Fire Insurance plans and atlases are large-scale (high resolution) urban maps which grew out of the need of fire insurance underwriters to understand the physical characteristics of a structure to be insured. These maps show with detail colour drawings and symbols, the character of the outside and inside construction of buildings, passages, probable fire cut-offs, fire walls, openings in walls, height and occupancy or use of individual buildings or groups of buildings. Street widths, street addresses, property lines, water pipes or mains, fire hydrants and fire alarm boxes are also located on the maps.

As we scan through this massive collection of microfiche, we're rediscovering some fascinating and beautiful gems.

In the 1902 Ottawa plans, we noticed the Carleton Court House, constructed in 1870-71, and the Carleton County Jail, completed in 1864. The jail and court house were connected via an underground tunnel - unfortunately not included in the fire plans.

It's a fairly ominous collection of buildings, a judicial system of trial - imprisonment - execution. (Note the gallows yards, facing Court House Ave.) After being closed in 1972, the jail building was converted into the 110 room Ottawa Jail Hostel. Then in 1988 the court house became home to the Ottawa Arts Court Foundation. The rest of the area has changed as well, with the building on Court House Ln having been demolished in lieu of green space.

For further reading, investigate the Carleton County Goal Heritage Centre and for a perspective on the prison mentalities of the era, look at "Prison discipline, and the advantages of the separate system of imprisonment" Field, J. (1848)

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