Photo of the week for 10/12/2009

Old Dauphin County Prison

Old Dauphin County Prison

The first Dauphin County prison was a small, two-story log structure built about 1790 near the corner of Walnut Street and Court Street (then called Raspberry Alley) in Harrisburg. John Harris, Jr. provided land for such public use when he laid out the town in 1785. In 1797 a limestone wall was built on account of the many escapes.

The second, Gothic-style prison (pictured here circa 1880) was designed by architect John Haviland. It was completed in 1841 on the same site after the removal of the first prison building but within the original stone wall. The octagonal tower was originally intended to contain an alarm bell, and a garden plot occupied the space between the cast-iron fence and the front of the building. The walls were 23 feet high.

The prison proper was a two-story, limestone building containing forty cells that measured fifteen feet in length and seven and a half feet in width. Twenty were on each floor, ten fronting either side of a corridor. Each cell had a bed, toilet, asphalt floor, hot water heat, and ventilation via holes in the walls. The 80-foot corridor had a brick floor, a center stairway, and was lighted and ventilated by sky-lights.

The prison originally cost $40,000 but was remodeled in 1899 when two tiers were added and the front was altered to brick. The building was demolished in 1957 after the opening of the prison in Swatara Township. Photo ID: E00244.

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