Can you imagine if the city of today sold postcards of Rikers Island?
At the turn of the last century, however, it apparently was no big deal to put an image of New York’s house of detention on penny postcards and sell them to tourists.
This city jail was built in 1902, taking its nickname from the infamous penitentiary that had occupied the same site since 1838.
That first Tombs had been modeled on an Egyptian mausoleum. The ungainly building, where accused men and women lived while awaiting trial, occupied an entire block on Centre Street. Unfortunately constructed on swampy, stinky land over the polluted Collect Pond, it immediately began to sink into the ground.
That’s the Bridge of Sighs connecting the jail to the courts building—named after the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice.