Posts Tagged ‘early prisons in New York City’

Doing time at the Ludlow Street Jail

January 18, 2010

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.

Turkey Day with the inmates at the Tombs

November 25, 2009

On December 1, 1903, The New York Times ran a long article covering how city orphanages, missions, hospitals, “Magdalen” asylums, and other charitable institutions celebrated the holiday. That almost always meant a big turkey dinner and religious speakers.

The Times also reported how Thanksgiving was celebrated in city jails—like the Tombs, the nickname given to a succession of jail complexes located downtown. The moniker stemmed from the original Tombs, built in 1838 on Centre Street, which looked like an Egyptian mausoleum.

Here’s a couple of inmates—or guards?—hanging out in the interior of the Tombs in the late 19th century.

What the Times had to say about how the men there spent turkey day:

“There were 424 prisoners in the Tombs. They had 150 turkeys, chicken ad lib, 200 pounds of potatoes, 100 mince pies, and cranberries, nuts, and other goodies. Then they listened to addresses by the Rev. J.J. Munro and the Rev. W.W. Gilliss, respectively Presbyterian and Episcopal clergymen. Mr. Gilliss passed a cigar to each of the men prisoners.

“Such an array of prisoners were in the various Police Court prisons as to lead to the suspicion that many had gotten themselves locked up in order to be sure of a Thanksgiving dinner. None was disappointed.”