New Gaol, turned Debtor's Prison, turned Provost Prison, turned Hall of Records


The New Gaol, turned Debtors` Prison, turned Provost Prison, turned Hall of RecordsMultiple structures were built in the commons where City Hall now stands - The Almshouse, a poorhouse built in 1736; The Barracks, four structures in the north of the park built by the British in 1757 to house soldiers; The New Gaol, a prison east of City Hall built in 1759; The Bridewell, a prison to the west of City Hall built-in 1775.

Constructed, 1757

Construction began on the city's 1st jail in 1757. Became redundant when Bridewell Brison was erected in 1775, now the New Goal was used exclusively for debtors, earning its new name, The Debtors’ Prison. On August 27, 1776 the British took possession of the city, and the Debtors’ Prison would receive another name: The Provost Prison. After the war the building returned to use as a debtors’ prison.

Renovation, 1830

Finally in 1830 debtors’ prisons were essentially outlawed and a committee of the Common Council chose the old jail to house the public records. About $15,000 was spent in remodeling and refitting the structure, partly to make it look less jail-like. The floors and windows were changed, the cupola and Georgian roof were removed and the building was lengthened at each end about seventeen feet by the addition of a portico and steps, a third story had been added. The renovated structure was unrecognizable. Remodeling stopped in 1832 when the city was overtaken by the cholera epidemic. In the second half of the century the Tweed administration spent another $140,000 to remodel the structure—now a century old. An architecturally-incongruous story was added above the entablature and pediments, and interior was enlarged by moving the front and back walls outward, so that the free-standing columns were now engaged, almost like pilasters.

Destroyed, 1903

The Sun commented on November 29, 1896 “Probably no other building in the city, which has been used for public purposes, has created so much discussion as the present Register’s office.” The newspaper denounced it saying “It has been pronounced unsafe the by Building Department, unhealthy by the Board of Health, and inadequate for the work intended for it by those in charge of the records of the metropolis. That it is all of these a trip through its musty, ill-smelling rooms would convince the most inexperienced.”The Daughters of the American Revolution. On April 15, 1901 the women enthusiastically unveiled a bronze plaque that was intended to focus attention on the history of the building and push for its preservation. The inscription was full of historical inaccuracies, however, and the newspapers reveled in mocking the group.The Sun called a “hideous example of the brown stone age, the old Hall of Records,” was demolished in 1903.

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