Doing time at the Ludlow Street Jail

That’s what today’s LES is missing—a city jail.

Opened in 1862 at Ludlow and Broome Street, the Ludlow Street jail was meant for civil rather than criminal offenders—many of whom could pay extra money and get better accommodations. 

And those upgraded accommodations weren’t bad. We’re talking a reading room, grocery store, and cells with comfy beds and curtains. It looks more like a posh university club, according to the illustrations below.

Notable prisoners include notoriously sinister politician William “Boss” Tweed, sent to Ludlow on corruption charges. He died there as well.

There’s also Victoria Woodhull, the first female candidate for president and a free-love advocate, who was accused of sending obscene material in the mail. She was found not guilty six months later.

The jail was also known as the “alimony club,” since many “delinquent husbands” got sent there, as a 1925 New York Times article put it. 

It was bulldozed in the late 1920s. On the site now: Seward Park High School.

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7 Responses to “Doing time at the Ludlow Street Jail”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    When I was a kid in Seward Park HS we heard rumors about the school having been a jail. But most of us felt we were prisoners in that place anyway. I remember Zero Mostel had attended the school. And Jimmy Cagney but he dropped out, same as I did… Oh well…

  2. oldeastsidr Says:

    Greetings from another Seward Park HS alum. I also remember the stories about the site being a former jail. Add Walter Mattau to the list of graduates.

  3. Nabe News: January 18 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] Park High School may seem like a prison to some students, but the property was the location of an actual jail until the 1920’s. [Ephemeral New […]

  4. Boris Says:

    If our state had anything approaching reasonable and fair ethics laws, beloved LES scion Sheldon Silver would’ve been in jail, and I would contribute my own money to see him imprisoned right in the neighborhood he “serves.”

  5. meg // morningmidnight Says:

    i LOVE this! my boyfriend lives very near to here and always thought the high school buildling seemed very bizarre, but it’s even cooler knowing that an even stranger building was there before! also great knowing victoria woodhull was there, as she was fantastic and fascinating 🙂 thank you for this!

  6. PizzaBagel Says:

    I was under the impression that Jimmy Cagney attended my alma mater, Stuyvesant High School. Wikipedia and numerous other websites indicate that he graduated from Stuy High in 1918. Methinks he was a Pegleg.

  7. Boss Tweed’s brazen escape from a city jail | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] release from prison on Blackwell’s Island, he was rearrested on civil charges and sent to the Ludlow Street Jail—a relatively cushy prison for white-collar […]

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