Springfield Armory Main Arsenal, Springfield, Mass

The Main Arsenal at the Springfield Armory, seen from Armory Square around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The building in 2018:

The origins of the Springfield Armory date back to 1777, when the Continental Congress established an arsenal here on a bluff overlooking the downtown area of Springfield, on the north side of State Street. The location was ideal, as it was at the crossroads of major trade routes, and it was also upstream of the last rapids on the Connecticut River, which protected Springfield from the threat of British naval attack. General Henry Knox, who had passed through Springfield a year earlier to bring captured cannon to Boston, was a strong advocate of this site, describing it as “perhaps one of the most proper Spots in America on every Account.”

During the American Revolution, the arsenal consisted of a small group of buildings, none of which are still standing, and the facility’s primary purpose was to store and repair weapons, and produce cartridges. After the war, it continued to be used as storage for muskets and powder, and in 1787 it was the scene of the last major battle of Shays’ Rebellion. The rebels had attempted to seize the munitions here, but they were ultimately defeated by a state militia force that assembled to protect the arsenal. However, the event had a significant impact on American history. Occurring only months before the Constitutional Convention, it helped to demonstrate the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and the need for a new, stronger national government.

In 1794, Congress authorized two federal armories for the production of small arms, with one in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and the other here in Springfield. This site here on State Street would continue to be the primary facility, but the armory also included several shops along the Mill River, located about a mile south of here. Much of the manufacturing was done at these shops, where the river could be harnessed as a source of power. However, other work was done here on State Street, and this location is also where raw materials and finished firearms were stored.

The armory steadily grew during the first half of the 19th century, but the most significant changes came in the 1840s, when superintendent Major James Ripley oversaw a major expansion of the facility. The most notable of these additions was a new main arsenal, which is shown here in these two photos. It was completed in 1850 on the west side of Armory Square, and it could store 300,000 muskets on its three floors. The most notable feature on the exterior of the building is the tower here on the eastern side, which rises 89 feet above the ground level. Because of its location on higher ground above downtown Springfield, the tower has long been a distinctive part of the skyline, and it has become a symbol of Springfield itself, appearing at the top of the city seal since 1852.

In retrospect, Major Ripley’s improvements here at the armory came just in time. By 1850, it was producing over 20,000 guns per year, but this would dramatically increase in 1861, with the onset of the Civil War. That same year, the Harper’s Ferry armory was destroyed, leaving Springfield as the only remaining federal armory. To supply the needs of the Union army, the workforce here increased from 200 to over 2,600, and in 1864 the armory produced over 276,000 rifles. The total output here at the armory during the war was over 800,000 guns, which was more than it had made in the previous 66 years combined.

No Civil War battles occurred anywhere near Springfield, but the armory did survive one threat in 1864, when two would-be saboteurs planted a bomb here in the main arsenal, in the tower near the clock. Despite the fact that the country was in the midst of war, the armory was evidently still open to the public, and two strangers persuaded a reluctant arsenal keeper to bring them up to the top of the tower, supposedly to see the view. Later that night, a watchman found a suspicious bundle near the clock, which had apparently been left by the two men. A subsequent inspection revealed that it had a fuse and was filled with powder, although it probably would not have done much damage to the building even if it had detonated.

The first photo was taken less than 30 years later, in the early 1890s. The armory was still a vital part of the country’s small arms production, and it would remain in use for much of the 20th century. During this time, the facility also played an important role in developing new firearms, including the M1903 and the M1 Garand. The latter was designed by—and named for—John Garand, a Springfield resident who worked here at the armory as a civilian employee. It became the standard-issue Army rifle throughout World War II, and about 3.5 million were produced here in Springfield during the war.

After the war, the armory was used primarily for research and development, with most of the production being outsourced to private contractors. The M14 rifle was designed here during this period, as were other weapons such as machine guns and grenade launchers. However, the facility was ultimately closed in 1968, resulting in a loss of nearly 2,500 jobs.

Following the closure, much of the property was turned over to the state of Massachusetts, becoming the campus of Springfield Technical Community College. The college constructed some new buildings here, and converted the old armory buildings into classrooms and offices. However, the federal government retained control of the western part of the armory, including the main arsenal and the commandant’s house, which stands in the distance beyond the trees on the right side of the scene. Both buildings are now preserved as part of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, which is run by the National Park Service. As shown in the present-day scene, the arsenal’s exterior appearance has hardly changed since the 19th century, and the first floor of the building is now a museum, housing an extensive collection of firearms and machinery.

Westfield Normal School, Westfield, Mass

The Westfield Normal School on Court Street in Westfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1891).

The building in 2018, which is now used as Westfield City Hall:

The mid-19th century saw the development of public normal schools, which were colleges that focused on training public school teachers. Here in Massachusetts, a system of normal schools was pioneered by education reformer Horace Mann, who opened ones in Lexington and Barre in 1839, and in Bridgewater a year later. The Bridgewater school has remained there ever since, and it is now Bridgewater State University, but the other two schools soon relocated. The Lexington Normal School moved to Newton in 1843 and later to Framingham, becoming the precursor to Framingham State University, and the Barre Normal School came to Westfield in 1844, eventually becoming Westfield State University.

Here in Westfield, the school’s first long-term home was a building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, which was completed in 1846. This building was used throughout much of the 19th century, but by the late 1880s it had become too small for the school’s growing programs. As a result, in 1889 the state purchased this lot on Court Street, and later that year construction began on a new, much larger building. It was originally expected to be completed in time for the fall of 1891, but construction delays postponed its opening until April 1892. The first photo was probably taken around this same time, as the small leaves on the trees seem to suggest that it is either late April or early May.

The building was designed by the noted Boston firm of Hartwell and Richardson, and it featured a Romanesque-style exterior of brick with brownstone trim. Its footprint was L-shaped, with the main section facing Court Street and a wing extending back in the direction of King Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This wing originally housed the training school, with classrooms for the various grade levels that were taught by the student teachers here. These were accessed via the basement-level doors of the wing, while the main entrances for the normal school itself were at the front of the building.

The state Board of Education, in its annual report published several months before the building opened, provided the following description of the interior:

To the left of the south-west entrance are the zoölogical, botanical, mineralogical and geological laboratories, fitted with appropriate appliances; and to the right of this entrance is the reception room, and beyond a large room for the critic, while across the corridor, which traverses the centre of the L-shaped building, are the large cloak room for women, with toilet room and a teacher’s room.

There are three stairways which carry from the basement up through the building. Two of them are next the entrances for the normal school on the south side. The third is in the L, and leads directly from one of the basement entrances. There is a lift near this staircase.

On the second floor there are three rooms: toward the east there are recitation rooms, with a women’s retiring and toilet room, and a book store-room; toward the west a recitation room, the principal’s room, the reading-room and book alcove; and in the center part of the building the large school-room sixty feet square.

On the third floor is a completely fitted chemical laboratory, with a teachers’ room, weighing-room, and a supply room opening out of it; the apparatus room and physical laboratory, fully equipped; and between these two laboratories, so that it can be used from either, a lecture room with raised tiers of seats.

Over the large school-room is a series of studios, and at the western end of the building are a recitation room, a cast room and a drawing room. Above the two end portions there are unfinished attics.

In the basement are the janitor’s room, men’s coat-room and toilet; the gymnasium with the men’s dressing-room and baths on the one side, and on the other women’s bath-rooms, with a staircase leading up to the women’s toilet room above; space for coal and boilers, and toward the east, play and toilet rooms for girls and boys, and a large work room.

Overall, the building was designed with a capacity of 175 normal school students, plus 125 children in the training school. A subsequent Board of Education annual report, covering the 1892-1893 school year – this building’s first full year in use – indicates that it was not quite at capacity, but it was close. During that year, it had a total of 155 students, including 27 who graduated at the end of the year. At the time, the student body was still overwhelmingly female, with only six men enrolled in the school and just one in the graduating class.

The report also provides interesting demographic information about the students. Of the 155 students, 26 had prior teaching experience, and 78 were receiving some sort of financial aid from the state. The vast majority were from Massachusetts, mostly from the four western counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, but there were also some out-of-state students, including five from Vermont, four from Connecticut, two each from New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and one each from Washington D.C., Virginia, Tennessee, and Nebraska.

Another table in the report classified students based on their fathers’ occupations. The most common was farmer (26), followed by skilled workmen (15), factory officials (8), merchants (8), unskilled workmen (4), manufacturers (2), and professional men (2). However, perhaps the most surprising information, to modern audiences, might be the prior education of students here at the normal school. Of 112 students recorded on the table, only 32 had graduated from a high school or academy. Another 40 attended high school without graduating, and 17 had attended either district or grammar schools, evidently without any high school education at all.

At the time, the school had nine faculty members, in addition to four elementary teachers in the training school, and many of them taught a rather eclectic mix of courses. For example, Elvira Carter taught geography, English literature, and algebra; Frances C. Gaylord taught geometry, grammar, history, and composition; and Laura C. Harding was evidently a sort of Renaissance woman, teaching geometry, astronomy, bookkeeping, reading, vocal music, French, and composition. The principal, James C. Greenough, was also a classroom teacher, and his courses consisted of psychology, didactics, civil polity, and rhetoric.

Over the next decade, the school would continue to grow with several new buildings. In 1900, the training school was relocated to a newly-completed building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, on the site of the original 1846 normal school building. With about 650 elementary-aged students, this meant a substantial increase in the size of the training school, and it also opened up space here in the main building on Court Street. Then, in 1903, the school opened a new dormitory, Dickinson Hall. It was located in the rear of the Court Street property, along King Street, and it could house up to 75 students.

The enrollment at the normal school continued to grow in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s it had about 200 students. By this point, a high school diploma was required for admission, and applicants also had to be in good physical condition, at least 16 years of age, and of good moral character. Starting in 1912, only women were admitted to the school, and it would not become coeducational again until 1938. At the time, tuition and textbooks were free for Massachusetts residents, but out-of-state students had to pay $25 per semester, equivalent to about $380 today. Students who lived on campus in Dickinson Hall had to pay $250 per year for room and board, or about $3,800 today.

For most of its early history, the school offered a two-year program for future teachers, but in 1928 it was expanded to three years, and then in 1931 to four years for those who would teach in junior high schools. In 1932, the school was renamed the Westfield State Teachers College, and two years later it began conferring bachelor of science degrees in education. By the early 1940s, though, the school was no longer free for in-state students. Tuition for Massachusetts residents was $75 for the 1941-1942 school year, and $300 for out-of-state students. Textbooks were $35 per year, and a dormitory room was $60 per year, plus about $4.50 per week for meals. In total, an in-state student who lived on campus paid about $300 per year, or nearly $5,300 today.

This building here on Court Street remained in use until 1956, when the growing college moved to its present-day campus on Western Avenue, about two miles to the west of here. It subsequently expanded its programs beyond just training teachers, and it has since gone through several more name changes, becoming the State College at Westfield, Westfield State College, and finally Westfield State University in 2010. Its enrollment has also grown significantly during this time, with nearly 4,900 undergraduate students in 31 different programs.

In the meantime, the old building here on Court Street was sold to the city of Westfield, and it was converted into a new city hall. It replaced an older building on Broad Street, which had been in use by the municipal government since 1837. This project included major renovations to the interior of the old school, but the exterior remained largely unaltered. From this angle, the only visible change to the building was the addition of a brick vault on the right side. It is three stories in height and measures about 16 feet by 17 feet, but it is mostly hidden from view behind the trees in the present-day photo.

The building was renovated at a cost of $150,000, and the work was completed by 1959. Along with housing the city government, the building was also occupied by the Westfield District Court, which was located on the left side. The court later moved into its own facilities, but this building continues to be used as city hall, with hardly any difference in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken more than 125 years ago. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2013 it also became a contributing property in the Westfield Center Historic District.

Old Post Office, Springfield, Mass

The old post office building, at the corner of Dwight and Taylor Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

For most of the 19th century, Springfield did not have a dedicated post office building. Instead, it was often housed inside of a store that was run by the postmaster, so over the years the post office had ten different locations before the first purpose-built post office was completed in 1891, at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets. This imposing Romanesque-style brownstone building functioned as both a post office and a customs house, but it soon proved to be too small, as Springfield’s population continued its dramatic growth into the early 20th century. As a result, this post office lasted barely 30 years before it was closed in 1932 and demolished the following year.

Its replacement was constructed several blocks away, on a lot that is bounded by Lyman, Dwight, Taylor, and Kaynor Streets. The latter was added to the city’s street network when the new post office was built, in order to provide access to the rear of the building. It was named in honor of the late W. Kirk Kaynor, a congressman and former Springfield postmaster who was killed in a plane crash in 1929.

The new building opened in September 1932, and it is shown here in the first photo only a few years later. it was primarily a post office, but it also housed a variety of other federal offices. A May 8, 1932 article in the Springfield Republican, published several months before it opened, outlined the intended use of the building. The post office would occupy much of the basement, all of the first floor, and most of the second floor. The rest of the second floor would be used by the customs appraiser, and the third floor would house the federal courtroom, judge’s chambers, district attorney’s office, and other Department of Justice offices. The allocation of space in the fourth and fifth floors was still tentative at the time, but these floors were intended to house a variety of other federal offices.

Architecturally, the building is very different from the previous post office. By the 1930s, the Romanesque architecture of the late 19th century had long since fallen out of fashion, and this new building featured the simplicity of Art Moderne architecture, with a light-colored exterior of polished Indiana limestone. However, it was built with some decorative elements, including the colored terra cotta spandrels in between the windows. Like many Depression-era post offices, it also included interior murals in the main lobby. The ones here were painted by Umberto Romano, and they consist of six murals that are collectively titled “Three Centuries of New England History.”

This building was used as a post office until 1967, when the present post office building opened a few blocks to the north of here. The rest of the federal offices were relocated in 1980, upon the completion of a new federal building at Main Street, and this property was sold to the state three years later. Since then, it has served as the Springfield State Office Building, housing a variety of state agencies, along with the Western Massachusetts office of the governor. Its exterior has remained well-preserved since then, with few noticeable changes from the first photo, and it stands as an excellent example of 20th century architecture in Springfield.

Old Newgate Prison Gates, East Granby, Connecticut

The front gates of the Old Newgate Prison in East Granby, around 1895. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

The Old Newgate Prison opened in 1773, in an abandoned copper mine in Granby – now present-day East Granby – Connecticut. The prisoners were housed underground in the old mine tunnels, with the idea that this would be a virtually escape-proof facility. However, the prison proved far less secure than its proponents had anticipated, and it was practically a revolving door in its early years, with some prisoners escaping almost as soon as they arrived.

During its first nine years in operation, more than half of the inmates who were confined here had reportedly escaped, and the above-ground buildings were burned on three separate occasions as part of escape attempts. Nonetheless, the facility remained in use, and in 1790 it became a state prison. A number of new buildings were constructed in the following years, and a new wooden fence was constructed around the perimeter of the prison yard in 1790. However, this was replaced by a more substantial stone wall in 1802, as shown here in these two photos.

The prison ultimately closed in 1827, and all of the inmates were transferred to the newly-built state prison in Wethersfield. This site was subsequently used again for copper mining, in the 1830s and 1850s, but neither attempt was particularly successful. In the meantime, most of the old prison buildings fell into ruin. By the time the first photo was taken in the 1890s, only two of the buildings were substantially intact, and one of these ultimately burned down in 1904.

Newgate had already become recognized as an important local landmark by the turn of the 20th century, and it was a popular destination for curious visitors. The site was eventually acquired by the state of Connecticut in 1968, and it was converted into a museum. Since then, the ruins have been stabilized, and Newgate has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark. As shown in these two photos, the 1802 stone wall has remained particularly well-preserved, and this view of the front gate still looks much the same as it would have to the prisoners who arrived here more than two centuries ago.

Old Newgate Prison Cell Block, East Granby, Connecticut

The cell block building of the Old Newgate Prison in East Granby, around 1895. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this site was originally used as a copper mine during the first half of the 18th century. In 1773, the abandoned tunnels were converted into a prison, and for more than 50 years they were used to house convicts from across Connecticut. However, the old mine proved less secure than government officials had anticipated, and from the beginning the prison was plagued with numerous escapes and riots.

By the early 19th century, the prison had expanded to include a number of above-ground buildings, in addition to the old mine tunnels. The present-day stone wall around the complex was added in 1802, providing an additional level of security, but escapes continued to be a problem. Finally, in 1824, the prisoners were moved out of the tunnels and into a newly-completed cell block building, shown here on the left side of the first photo. This four-story building included cells for 50 prisoners, plus living quarters for the guards, prison offices, and a treadmill, where inmates would grind grain by walking on a human-powered wheel.

Despite these improvements, though, Newgate became a target for prison reform advocates, who saw the conditions here as being inhumane. As a result, a new state prison was constructed in Wethersfield, and the Newgate prisoners were transferred there in 1827. Fittingly enough, though, there was one last escape attempt, which occurred here on the night before Newgate closed. An inmate has requested to spend the night in the tunnels, and he used this opportunity to attempt an escape by climbing a rope in the well shaft. However, the rope broke, and he was killed when he fell back down into the mine.

After the prison closed, there were several attempts to continue mining copper here, but with limited success. Instead, Newgate went on to become a local landmark, and its tales were published in several local history books during the 19th century. By the time the first photo was taken in the 1890s, the prison had been abandoned for around 70 years, and many of the buildings had fallen into ruin. However, the 1824 cell block was still largely intact at this point, as shown on the left side of the first photo, and there was even an observation deck that had been added to the roof.

Unfortunately, this cell block building was reduced to rubble only a decade later, after a fire in 1904. This left the old guardhouse as the only intact building in the former prison complex, but the site remained a popular destination for visitors throughout the 20th century. Then, in 1968, the state of Connecticut purchased the property, stabilized the ruins, and opened it as a museum. The work also included digging a new entrance to the mine tunnels, which allowed visitors to descend via a staircase, instead of a vertical mine shaft.

The museum closed in 2009, due to the deteriorating conditions of the ruins. Over the next nine nears, the site underwent major repairs, and it reopened in 2018, around the same time that the second photo was taken. As this photo shows, there is little left of the old cell block, aside from some of the lower walls. The other buildings here, except for the guardhouse, are in a similar condition, but Newgate still holds a great deal of historical significance. It was one of the first copper mines in the American colonies, and one of the first state prisons in the country, and in 1972 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of federal recognition for a historic site.

Old Newgate Prison, East Granby, Connecticut

The Old Newgate Prison on Newgate Road in East Granby, around 1895. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

By the time the first photo was taken in the mid-1890s, the Old Newgate Prison was already recognized as an important historic landmark. Its history dates back to 1705, when copper was discovered here on the western slope of the Metacomet Ridge. A copper mine was opened here two years later, and it is generally considered to be the first copper mine in the American colonies. It was active throughout the first half of the 18th century, creating a network of tunnels that branched out from a vertical shaft.

The mine was largely abandoned for the next few decades, but in 1773 the underground tunnels were repurposed as a prison. The first warden was John Viets, who kept a tavern across the street from the mine. He provided food and other supplies for the prisoners, while also continuing to operate his tavern, which was known to occasionally cater to the needs of the wealthier prisoners. In 1774, the prison’s first full year of operation, Viets was paid 29 pounds, 5 shillings, and 10 pence for his services, and the following year he received nearly 150 pounds, although these amounts evidently include both his salary and his reimbursement for expenses.

The job of prison warden certainly came with its risks, and the 1892 book Newgate of Connecticut: Its Origin and Early History, by Richard H. Phelps, relates one such incident involving Viets:

At that time no guard was kept through the day, but two or three sentinels kept watch during the night. There was an anteroom or passage, through which to pass before reaching their cell, and the usual practice of Capt. Viets, when he carried their food, was, to look through the gates into this passage, to observe whether they were near the door, and if not, to enter, lock the door after him, and pass on to the next. The inmates soon learned his custom, and accordingly prepared themselves for an escape. When the captain came next time, some of them had contrived to unbar their cell door, and huddled themselves in a corner behind the door in the passage, where they could not easily be seen, and upon his opening it, they sprang upon him, knocked him down, pulled him in, and made good their escape.

Most of these prisoners were eventually recaptured, but this was just one of many such escapes from the old copper mine, which proved less secure than the colonial government had anticipated. In fact, the first recorded prisoner here, convicted burglar John Hinson, escaped after just 18 days, supposedly after a female acquaintance pulled him up via the mine shaft. This was followed by at least four escapes in April 1774, including one convict who escaped just four days into his sentence.

Prisoners here often took drastic measures in their attempts to escape. In 1776, a group of prisoners in the tunnel attempted to set fire to the blockhouse, which was situated at the top of the mine shaft. They succeeded in lighting a fire, but it filled the tunnels with smoke, killing one of the men and nearly suffocating the rest of them. The blockhouse was subsequently rebuilt, but it was soon burned again by the prisoners.

Probably the most dramatic escape from Newgate came in the closing years of the American Revolution, when the facility held a number of Loyalist prisoners. By this point, the prison had significantly increased security, including the addition of a fence and an increase in the number of guards. However, this did not stop a group of about 30 prisoners, mostly Loyalists, from taking control of the prison and escaping, as described by Phelps in Newgate of Connecticut:

On the night of the 18th of May, 1781, the dreadful tragedy occurred which resulted in the escape of all the prisoners. A prisoner was confined, by the name of Young, and his wife wishing to be admitted into the cavern with him, she was searched, and while two officers were in the act of raising the hatch to let her down, the prisoners rushed out, knocked down the two officers, and seizing the muskets of nearly all the rest who were asleep, immediately took possession of the works, and thrust most of the guards into the dungeon, after a violent contest. One of them, Mr. Gad Sheldon, was mortally wounded, fighting at his post, and six more wounded severely.

Some of the prisoners were wounded, but most were able to escape, although many were subsequently recaptured. Newgate continued to be used to imprison Loyalists after this incident, but in 1782 the prison was burned again, enabling the inmates to escape. This was, as Phelps noted, “the third time the prison buildings had been burned in nine years, since its first inauguration, and more than one-half of the whole number of convicts had escaped by various means.”

Newgate became a state prison in 1790, and officials soon set out to improve the facility. That same year, a wooden fence was constructed, creating a prison yard of about a half acre, and a number of new buildings were constructed. Prisoners generally slept in the tunnels, but they came to the surface during the daytime to perform work. The original intention had been to make the prisoners mine for copper, but officials quickly realized that their mining tools could also be used to aid in escaping, so this plan was scrapped. Instead, many prisoners made nails, while others were assigned to walk on the treadmill, a human-powered wheel that ground grain.

In Newgate of Connecticut, Phelps provides the following description of daily life here in the prison:

The hatches were opened and the prisoners called out of their dungeon each morning at daylight, and three were ordered to “heave up” at a time; a guard followed the three to their shops, placing them at their work, and chaining those to the block whose tempers were thought to require it. All were brought out likewise in squads of three, and each followed by a guard. . . .

After a while their rations for the day were carried to them in their several shops. They consisted for each day of one pound of beef or three-fourths of a pound of pork, one pound of bread, one bushel of potatoes for each fifty rations, and one pint of cider to every man. Each one divided his own rations to suit himself – some cooked over their own mess in a small kettle at their leisure, while others disregarding ceremonies, seized their allowance and ate it on an anvil or block. They were allowed to swap rations, exchange commodities, barter, buy, and sell, at their pleasure. Some would swap their rations for cider, and often would get so tipsy that they could not work, and would “reel too and fro like a drunken man.” . . .

All were allowed to work for themselves or others after their daily tasks were finished, and in that way some of them actually laid up considerable sums of money. A little cash, or some choice bits of food from people in the neighborhood, procured many a nice article of cabinet ware, a good basket, a gun repaired by the males, or a knit pair of stockings by the female convicts. . . .

The punishments inflicted for offenses and neglect of duty were severe flogging, confinement in the stocks in the dungeon, being fed on bread and water during the time, double or treble sets of irons, hanging by the heels, &c., all tending to inflame their revenge and hatred, and seldom were appeals made to their reason or better feelings. Most of them were placed together in the night; solitary lodging, as practiced at this day, being regarded as a punishment, rather than a blessing to them.

By the early 19th century, there were a number of new above-ground structures here at Newgate. The current stone fence was built in 1802, replacing the earlier wooden one, and during this period a new brick guardhouse was constructed atop the mine shaft. The nail shop was located on the north side of the yard, and the south side eventually had three buildings along the inside of the wall. In the southeast corner, closest to the foreground in this scene, was the chapel, which was built around 1815. Just to the west of it was a two-story building that housed a cooper shop, hospital, kitchen, and shoemaker’s shop. Furthest to the west, on the far left side of the scene, was a large four-story building that was constructed in 1824. It had several different purposes, with space for the treadmill, rooms for guards, and cells for 50 prisoners.

With the completion of this new building, the prisoners were able to be moved above ground, and the mine tunnels were no longer used on a regular basis. However, Newgate still faced issues of overcrowding and poor conditions for its inmates, and it became a target for prison reformers, who advocated the opening of a new, more humane prison in Connecticut. Throughout the early 19th century, Newgate also continued to have problems with escape attempts and riots, despite the many improvements here since the colonial period.

As a result, a new state prison was constructed in Wethersfield, and the old prison here in Granby – now located within the town of East Granby – was closed for good in 1827. However, in a fitting conclusion to its time as a prison, this facility saw one last escape attempt, which occurred on the last night before the prisoners were transferred to Wethersfield. On that night, a convicted counterfeiter named Abel N. Starkey asked to sleep in the old tunnels. The guards permitted this, and during the night Starkey attempted to escape by climbing up the rope of the well shaft. As he was ascending the shaft, though, the rope broke, and he was killed when he fell back down to the bottom.

After the prison closed, there were several efforts to revive the site as a copper mine, but with little success. For a time, the guardhouse was used as a private residence, with the owner often giving tours to curious visitors. By the late 19th century, much of the prison was in ruins, as shown by the crumbling walls in the first photo, but it had already become a local landmark and a popular tourist destination.

The prison would deteriorate even further in 1904, when a fire destroyed the 1824 cell block building on the left side of the scene. However, the rest of the property continued to be used for a variety of purposes during the first half of the 20th century. The guardhouse served as a dance hall during the 1920s and 1930s, and the grounds were occasionally used for public events and exhibitions.

The state of Connecticut acquired the property in 1968 and converted it into a museum. This included stabilizing the ruins, and digging a new entrance tunnel with stairs, which made it easier and safer for visitors to descend into the old mine. In 1972, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark, in recognition of its historical significance as one of the first copper mines and one of the first state prisons in the country.

Because of structural problems, Old Newgate Prison was closed to the public in 2009, beginning a nearly decade-long project to stabilize the ruins. However, it reopened in 2018, and visitors can once again tour the remains of the above-ground buildings, and descend into the old tunnels. Following the 1904 fire that destroyed the cell block building, the old guardhouse is the only building here that survives intact, and its roof and chimney are visible beyond the walls in the 2018 photo. Otherwise, though, there have not been many changes in this scene, and the exterior of the prison still looks much the same as it did during the late 19th century.