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{Prison yard and guardhouse} Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine

National Historic Landmark
State Archaeological Preserve 

Copper mine
(c. 1705-1750s)

Connecticut's first prison
(1773-1827)

MUSEUM AND GROUNDS CLOSED FOR RESTORATION


2015 UPDATE:
The stabilization of the historic guardhouse is underway. The 1819 portion of this building was constructed on loose mine debris and historic photographs show longstanding problems with subsidence. Cracks in the stone walls widened to the extent that the building was unsafe and on the verge of collapse. Preserving this important historic resource, the sole surviving structure from the prison complex, involves inserting custom-made steel beams to hold the building up while a permanent support system is installed underneath. Because of the complexity of the work scope and unknown field conditions, a completion date cannot be projected and it is not yet determined when the museum can re-open safely to the public.

{Construction staging area in prison yard}     {Shoring behind guardhouse & work area}

{Determining piling placement}     {Brainstorming with contractors and engineers}

{Temporary steel support system inside guardhouse basement}    {2015 work}

 

{The prison yard is a busy place}    {Pilings driven down to bedrock are part of the system to permanently support the historic guardhouse}

 

{Southwest corner of guardhouse}    {West end of guardhouse}

 

{Southwest corner of guardhouse}    {View northwest from guardhouse}

 

{Guardhouse foundation - May 2015}    {Guardhouse foundation - May 2015}

 

{Guardhouse foundation - May 2015}

 

{Back of guardhouse - June 2015}

 

{SW corner of guardhouse - June 2015}

 

{Under SW corner of guardhouse}

Construction in progress at the Visitor Center (2012):

{Exterior view}      {Interior view}

Installation of a new lighting system in the mine tunnels (2012):

{New light fixture in mine}       {Installation of new mine lighting system}

Trenching in the prison yard (overseen by an archaeologist) for the installation of electrical service for the mine lighting system:

{Trench for new service line}      {Installation of new conduit in mine}

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The presence of copper ore here was noted in 1705 and the site became one of the first commercial mines in the British Colonies. It was not a money-making venture, however, and work was abandoned in the 1750s.

{Visitors in mine} The tunnels left behind by miners burrowing deep underground became Connecticut's first prison in 1773. The General Assembly decided to confine serious criminals - burglars, horse thieves, counterfeiters, forgers - in a working environment as an alternative to the whipping post and other "infamous punishments" of the day.

{Prison ruins} The first prisoner arrived on December 22, 1773. He escaped 18 days later. Subsequent prisoners were equally resourceful and many escapes - successful and unsuccessful - were to follow. Richard Steele, a "notorious villain and burglarian," held the record of three escapes from New-Gate. Political prisoners were confined here during the Revolutionary War and women were first committed in 1824. Considered costly to run and inhumane, the prison was closed in 1827. Attempts to revive mining operations failed.

Visitors enter the prison yard through 12'-tall walls. The brick guardhouse still stands and houses exhibits, but only ruins remain of the other prison buildings. A modern stairway provides access underground where air temperature is always in the 50s. The visitor center features a gift shop. 

{Lois Viets} Across the street from the prison is Viets Tavern, the unrestored, mid-18th century home of first prison warden, Capt. John Viets and his wife Lois.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
115 Newgate Road, East Granby, CT 06026  ~  newgate.museum@ct.gov  ~  860-653-3563