Life in 'the big house': Former N.S. jail becomes a home
From the outside, the handsome stone building on Court Street in Antigonish, N.S. looks like a spacious property with a bit of historic charm.
But the recently-converted home, dubbed “the big house” by its owner, isn’t your average rental. It used to be the Antigonish Correctional Facility, a county jail that housed offenders in the Maritime province for nearly 70 years.
Where some people may have seen a nefarious past, landlord Pat Smith saw opportunity.
“How can you not like this? It’s a beautiful rock building,” Smith told CTV Atlantic. “It just needs a little tender love and care.”
Built in 1948, the jail has undergone serious renovations under its new ownership to make the space appear more homey. Fresh coats of paint inside and out have given the building a facelift, and units now include fridges, stoves dishwashers and en-suite laundry.
Nearly all the cells have been removed except for two that serve as storage space – “Or in case anybody don’t pay their rent,” Smith jokes.
“The Big House” was divided into two apartments, a four-bedroom unit and a three-bedroom unit. The building is located a short walk from St. Francis Xavier University campus and has already been rented out to its first tenants, who will move in next May.
But not all students agreed on whether they’d jump at the opportunity to live in a former jail.
“That’s where criminals lived. I don’t think I’d want to live where criminals lived,” said student Ryan Moore.
“I just think it would be something different to tell your friends, like, that you’re staying in somewhere that used to be a jail,” said student Chantal Houser.
The minimum-security facility had space for 17 inmates. It was shut down in January 2015, after a new facility opened in nearby Pictou County.
Little reminders of the jail’s history remain in Smith’s office. He’s converted a cell door into a glass coffee table and mounted several keys onto the wall in a decorative display.
With a report from CTV Atlantic