History of Cedarhedge


In 1870, the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, authorized the construction of the official Warden's residence of Kingston Penitentiary. On August 28 1873, Warden John Creighton and his 5 children became the first family to live in the house.

Before the residence was built, the Wardens of Kingston Penitentiary and their families lived in apartments provided within the walls of the penitentiary. This wing also housed the administration offices of the facility.

Built entirely by convict labour under the supervision of staff Trade Instructors, the house took nearly 3 years to build. The cost? Approximately $ 9,000.00 (in 1873 dollars). Designed in the Italianate Vernacular style by Acting Penitentiary Architect, Henry H. Horsey, it was constructed using a combination of local Kingston limestone quarried on the penitentiary reserve, with Ohio Sandstone accents. In the late 19th century, the residence became known as "Cedarhedge" in reference to the extensive manicured cedar hedges that once lined the driveway.

By all accounts, life at Cedarhedge was a luxurious one. At its peak the property boasted apple orchards, greenhouses, a grape-vinery, and a conservatory. Inmate gardeners tended to the extensive terraced grounds each day, and some of the resident families are known to have had their own non-inmate servants within the home. The importance of the house is exemplified by at least two postcards that were produced for sale to the general public around 1900.

Residents of Cedarhedge

John Creighton (August 28, 1871 – January 31, 1885)

John Creighton

Businessman and local politician John Creighton was appointed Acting Warden of Kingston Penitentiary in October of 1870. Born in Ireland in 1817, Mr. Creighton entered into the trade of Printer & Typesetter, working at the local newspapers before becoming a Clerk at the "City Bookstore". Later he bought the business, adding a job printing department and bookbindery.

From 1859 to 1861, Creighton served on Kingston City Council as Councillor for Victoria Ward. He became Alderman for that Ward in 1862. In 1863, he was elected Mayor of Kingston and was returned by acclamation in 1864 & 1865. During his time as Mayor, he enlarged City Park, improved sanitary conditions in the city and restored the Market wing of City Hall after the tragic fire of 1865. He also procured the clock for the dome of city hall.

In 1866, Creighton became Police Magistrate and in October of 1870, was induced to accept the position of Warden by Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Alexander Campbell. A single parent of five children, he was not interested in raising his family in the penitentiary apartments within the compound, which he described as requiring extensive repair. As a result, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, then also Minister of Justice, approved the construction of 'Cedarhedge' as the official Warden's residence of Kingston Penitentiary.

During the 1870s the Penitentiary Service was expanding with the establishment of new penitentiaries in Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia. Newly appointed wardens of those institutions met with Warden Creighton in Cedarhedge to discuss the operation and management of their new facilities.

Considered by many to be the first true humanitarian to hold the position, Warden Creighton improved the lighting, heating and ventilation of the prison; provided better shoes, uniforms and bedding and a more varied diet to the inmates. Exercise periods were increased and extended to all prisoners. He began a lending library, night classes and improved school equipment. He introduced prison entertainment by and for inmates on holidays and visited the inmates in their cells, in the workshops, on the farm and in the quarries. In fact, he even ate his meals in the inmate Dining Hall. In 1873, when 119 inmates boarded the Steamer Watertown at the penitentiary wharf for their transfer to the new St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval, Quebec, many of them made it known that they did not want to leave his humane custody.

Warden Creighton died on January 31, 1885 in Cedarhedge. The Daily British Whig of February 2, 1885 reported "The streets surrounding the warden's residence [were] blocked with sleighs, and nearly every prominent citizen was in attendance. The City Police force was drawn up at the door as a guard of honour the cortege was a very long one".

Dr. Michael Lavell (February 5, 1885 – May 1896)

Dr. Michael Lavell

Born in Quebec in 1825, Warden Lavell attended the Toronto School of Medicine and the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. In 1858 he moved to Kingston and in 1860 became Professor of Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children in the medical department at Queen's University. Recognized as the leading Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Paediatrician in Kingston, Lavell became Surgeon of the Kingston General Hospital and Surgeon with the Frontenac Militia. In 1866, he was one of the founders of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Kingston.

In 1872, Dr. Lavell was appointed Surgeon of Kingston Penitentiary. Believing in the medical education of women, who at the time couldn't attend medical classes with men, Dr. Lavell helped to found the "Women's Medical College" in Kingston. He served as the President, Dean and Professor of Obstetrics there from 1883 to 1885.

On February 3, 1885, Lavell became Warden of Kingston Penitentiary, a post he reluctantly accepted. He lived in Cedarhedge with his wife, Betsy, and their 10 children.

In 1885, Prime Minister Macdonald asked Dr. Lavell and Dr. Valade (of Montreal) to examine Louis Riel. Riel had been sentenced to death because of an uprising he had led in the West. The doctors were to determine whether Riel was "…so bereft of his reason as not to know right from wrong and as not to be an accountable being". Dr. Lavell found that "Riel, although holding and expressing foolish & peculiar views as to religion and general government, is an accountable being and capable of distinguishing right from wrong". As a result, the sentence of death was carried out. Dr. Lavell himself died in Kingston in 1901.

James Metcalfe, M.P.P., M.P. (May 22, 1896 – May 1899)

James Metcalfe

James Metcalfe was born in Kingston in 1848 and began teaching locally at age 16. His education career lasted 17 years during which he was Head-Master of the Wellington, Johnson and Queen Street schools. From 1873 - 1878, Metcalfe was Alderman for Frontenac Ward in Kingston. In 1879, he became a member of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario. After the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891, he succeeded him as member for Kingston in the Federal parliament. Metcalfe was Warden of Kingston Penitentiary from May 22nd 1896 to May 17th 1899.

It was said of Metcalfe that he had "the suavity of a Laurier, the magnetic personality of a Macdonald, the volubility of a Tupper and the rhetoric of Cartwright...".(Weekly British Whig, Jan. 5, 1925). He died in Kingston on January 1, 1925, predeceased by his wife and five of his eleven children.

Dr. James Milton Platt, M.D., M.P. (May 17, 1899 – March 1913)

Dr. James M. Platt

Born in 1840 in Prince Edward County, Platt attended Fort Edward Military Academy in New York State, the Normal School, Toronto and Victoria College in Cobourg, Ontario. Graduating there as an M.D., he served as Surgeon with the 16th Battalion, Volunteer Militia during the Fenian Raids in 1866. He was also the first editor/publisher of the Picton New Nation as well as a teacher and school inspector. From 1878 to 1892 he was the Liberal member for Prince Edward County in the federal parliament.

At Cedarhedge, Platt had two blood-hounds as pets which "the prisoners thought would devour them on slight provocation"! Evidence of the dogs can be seen on the South-west window sill in the gallery on the museum's second floor.

His only child, Garfield, served as the Kingston Penitentiary Surgeon from 1931-1942. Warden Platt died Sept. 27, 1919 at Picton, Ontario.

Lt.-Col. Acheson Gosford Irvine (March 1913 – August 1914)

A.G. Irvine

Warden Irvine was born in Quebec in 1837, and followed a very distinguished military career. He obtained a commission as Lieutenant in the Militia in 1864. He served as Major with the Quebec Rifles during the Red River Expedition to the West in 1870. In 1871 he was appointed Commanding Officer of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles in Manitoba. He retired from the military as Lieutenant-Colonel in 1873.

In 1875, he was appointed Assistant Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.), becoming Commissioner of the Force in 1880. He commanded the N.W.M.P. during the North West Rebellion (Riel Rebellion) of 1885. He resigned from the N.W.M.P. in March, 1886 and became an Indian Agent on the Blood Reserve. He was appointed Warden of Stony Mountain Penitentiary (a.k.a. Manitoba Penitentiary) on October 13, 1892. He was awarded the Imperial Service Order in 1902.

In April 1913, at age 75, he was appointed Warden of Kingston Penitentiary, but appears to have not actually arrived in Kingston until August. Later in 1913, he was elected Vice-President of the American Corrections Association for a one-year term. He served as Warden for one year and four months, retiring from the public service in August of 1914. Warden Irvine died in Quebec on January 9, 1916.

Robert Creighton (August 1, 1914 – July 1919)

Robert Creighton

Robert Creighton was born in Kingston in 1861, a son of Warden John Creighton. At 21, Robert became Warden's Clerk at Kingston Penitentiary. Promoted to Accountant on Dec. 29, 1892, he was transferred to Head Office in Ottawa on February 1, 1903.

From December of 1913 to April 1914, Mr. Creighton served as Warden of the Alberta Penitentiary at Edmonton. On August 1, 1914, he was permanently appointed as the Warden of Kingston Penitentiary, forty-four years after his father was appointed to the same position.

Warden Creighton's entire time as warden at Kingston Penitentiary was overshadowed by World War 1. Manufacturing at Canada's penitentiaries changed to support the war effort. Crime rates dropped as men went overseas. By 1918, inmates were granted pardons on condition they enlist for service. Many staff took leaves of absence to enlist, so temporary guards were hired to fill their positions.

Capt. John Charles Ponsford (April 27, 1920 – c.1932)

Capt. J.C. Ponsford

Captain Ponsford joined the Canadian Penitentiary Service as Warden of Manitoba Penitentiary, Stony Mountain, on March 4, 1913. On April 1, 1914 he became Warden of the Alberta Penitentiary, in Edmonton, and closed that facility in 1920. On April 27, 1920 he was appointed Warden of Kingston Penitentiary.

During his occupation of Cedarhedge, Warden Ponsford made many changes to the building, He added the second-floor bay window on the main façade in order to see who was approaching the house from the driveway at the south-east corner of the property. There was also a lengthy debate about his wish to install bathrooms in the house. Headquarters felt the need to remind him that this was a government residence and not a "millionaire's" mansion!

The Ponsford's were quite active in the local social scene. In October of 1922 Mrs. Ponsford entertained the Anglican Girls Club of Queen's University at Cedarhedge. The Oct.25, 1922 issue of the Kingston Standard reported that "…Hallowe'en favours, yellow candles and ferns formed the decorations in the drawing room and were used in the tea room. The Dean of Ontario and the Rev. W.E. Kidd were present at the tea hour to welcome the College girls to the Anglican Club."

Warden Ponsford was on retiring leave from January until October of 1932. During his leave, the first major riot in the history of Kingston Penitentiary took place. At this point, it is not known whether Warden Ponsford continued to reside at Cedarhedge during his leave.

Inspector Gilbert Smith (Acting Warden - January 1932 – October 22, 1932)

Inspector Smith joined the Penitentiary Service in 1895 and held various positions throughout the department. During the 1920s there had been a number of inmate protests held in various industrial shops at Kingston Penitentiary. On October 17, 1932 these disturbances culminated in the first major riot in the history of the institution.

At this point, it is not known whether Insp. Smith resided at Cedarhedge while Warden Ponsford was on retiring leave.

Lt.-Col. William Blight Megloughlin (October 24, 1932 – June 14, 1934)

Lt. Col. Wm. B. Megloughlin

A veteran officer of World War 1, Lt.-Col. William Blight Megloughlin, OBE, MC, VD, was the Commanding Officer of the 43rd Regiment, Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa from 1927 - 1932. On October 24, 1932, he came to Kingston Penitentiary as Warden with the task of regaining the control and discipline of the institution. This had been lost due to the 1932 riot. He held the position of Warden until June, 1934.

It was during his tenure that Cedarhedge stopped serving as the official Warden's residence. Instead, it became the Administration Offices of K.P. On November 17th, Warden Megloughlin reported that his offices were now moved from the penitentiary into Cedarhedge, or "building A-1" (See Nat'l Archives - RG73; Vol.22; File 6-A-1; Vol.1). The penitentiary administration was now able to convert former office space within the Kingston Penitentiary compound into more cell accommodations in order to relieve overcrowding.

Superintendent Brig.-Gen. Daniel Mowat Ormond (Acting Warden - c. November 1932 – c. January 1933)

Superintendent D.M. Ormond

Superintendent Ormond acted as Warden for a period of time during Warden Megloughlin's term. A letter, dated Oct.31, 1932, made reference to the Superintendent's intention to move into the Warden's House "for the time being". There is very little information about his tenancy here.

Engineer T. Nixon (April 15, 1936 – c. May 1939)

Engineer T.Nixon

As early as August of 1934, plans were being discussed to turn the rear portion of the administration building into a Plant Engineer's apartment in order that this officer would be on-site at all times in case of emergency. Extensive renovations took place during 1935. The Engineer's apartment consisted of the rear portions of the house, while the front portions were used as the administration offices. A letter dated April 16, 1936 advised that Engineer L. Nixon had occupied the quarters the previous day (April 15). (See Nat'l Archives - RG73; Vol.22; File 6-A-1; Vol.2)

Engineer Arthur G. Pedder (c. 1940 – c. November 1952)

Engineer A.G. Pedder

In the spring of 1940, Plant Engineer Pedder submitted letters requesting various redecorating projects be completed in the Engineer's apartment. (See Nat'l Archives - RG73; Vol.22; File 6-A-1; Vol.2) A letter dated Nov. 30, 1952 showed that the Engineer's Quarters were vacant during Nov. 1952. (See Nat'l Archives - RG73; Vol.22; File 6-A-1; Vol.3). This seems to prove that Engineer's apartments were now a thing of the past.

After that date, the house was entirely occupied by various administration offices of the penitentiary. The Accountants, Personnel and Medical records offices were in the former Engineer's quarters. The Warden's offices remained in the front section. The Correctional Service of Canada Museum relocated to two rooms on the East side of the first floor in May of 1985. The museum has grown to become the sole occupant of the house today.