Scenic USA - Connecticut
Each day Scenic USA presents a new and interesting photo feature from somewhere in the United States. Chosen from a wide variety
of historic sites, city scenes, backcountry byways, points of interest and America's best parklands, this site offers the viewer hundreds
of unique vacation destinations and photographic subjects. Each feature is coupled with a brief explanation. For further detailed
information, links to other sites are provided, but are never to be considered an endorsement.
Old Newgate Prison
Remaining in the Viets family since Colonial times, the Old Newgate Prison was one of the first of its kind in America. A copper mine since 1705, Connecticut state officials approached owner John Viets about using the unprofitable mine as a prison in 1773. Convincing Viets that he'd make an excellent prison guard, the mineshaft's drain and passageways were sealed off, limiting prisoners entry and exit only through the main 70 foot mineshaft.
From the very first prisoner, many mysterious disappearances occurred over the years. Seldom mentioning these prison breaks, the horrors of this cold, damp underground stronghold quickly spread throughout New England. Dubbed Newgate after England's most notorious prison, many attempts were made to eliminate prison escapes.
With arrival of many English (Tory) sympathizers during the Revolutionary War, prison conditions became overcrowded and unbearable. During the day prisoners walked a conveyor belt to grind corn meal, while others worked in a nail factory. The prisoners slept on damp straw. Food, consisting of cornmeal mush and pickled pork, was dropped down the main shaft. A mad scramble ensued to grab the food from the filthy floor. With-holding rations, floggings and iron restraints were a common punishment.
Tales of bribery, guard attacks, escape tunnels and massive jail breaks left behind a most riveting prison history. Although closed for restoration until spring of 2013, the prison may still be viewed from the exterior. Interior tours once included a look at the guard house, John Viets tavern, and the tunnels were prisoners were held. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1972, the Old Newgate Prison is managed by the State of Connecticut and has essentially been a tourist attraction since 1860.
Old Newgate Prison Map
Through these bars I see the sun.
I'm here because the wrong I done.
My woman's needs made me ashamed.
I stole for her, I should 'a' stood up like a man.
I've got to lay down this old nine, nine pound, nine pound steel.
Snooks Eaglin - Nine Pound Steel
Copyright © 2012 Benjamin Prepelka
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