New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
“The Tombs” – A Mausoleum for the Living
On this site in 1838, the first prison of NYC to bear The Tombs nickname was built. The design, by John Haviland, was based on an engraving of an ancient Egyptian mausoleum. While regarded by some as a notable example of Egyptian Revival architecture, Charles Dickens quipped in his American Notes of 1842: “What is this dismal fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like an enchanter’s palace in a melodrama?” Built to accommodate 300 prisoners, it occupied a full block in Lower Manhattan, surrounded by Centre, Franklin, Elm (today’s Lafayette), and Leonard Streets.
The block on which the building stood had been created in 1811 by the filling-in of a small lake – an important fresh water source for colonial New York. By 1800, industrialization and population density resulted in the severe pollution of the pond, and it was condemned, drained and filled in. Over this swampy, foul-smelling area was concentrated housing for some of New York”s (sic) poorest citizens by the time of the prison’s construction in 1838. The building’s enormous, heavy masonry was built atop giant caissons of lashed hemlock trunks sunk in a bid
The prison was well known for its corruption and went through numerous scandals and successful prison escapes throughout its early history and, by 1850, many were calling for its destruction, leading to the Haviland building being replaced by a new structure in 1902,(sic) that was connected by a “Bridge of Sighs” with the Criminal Courts on Franklin Street. In 1941, that building was duly replaced by one at 125 White Street, officially named the Manhattan House of Detention, though still popularly referred to as “The Tombs”.
Part of “The Tombs” was eventually closed in 1974 due to security and health reasons, and shortly thereafter, the structure was pulled down and replaced with a fourth building – the current facility, which again comprises two connected buildings – a 381 capacity tower that is the remaining part of the 1941 building (at 100 Centre Street) and 500 capacity tower north of it, opened in 1990.
The current Tombs Prison was named the Bernard B. Kerik
Location. Marker has been reported missing. It was located near 40° 42.972′ N, 74° 0.085′ W. Marker was in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker could be reached from Centre Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker was at or near this postal address: across from 100 Centre Street, New York NY 10013, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Collect Pond Park (was within shouting distance of this marker but has been reported missing. ); From Collect Pond To Park (within shouting distance of this marker); The Legendary Collect Pond (within shouting distance of this marker); Death of the Collect Pond Collect Pond and the City (within shouting distance of this marker); Collect Pond Before The City (within shouting distance of this marker); Biography of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Engine Company 31 (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
More about this marker. There’s something fishy about this marker - the errors of grammar, form, and punctuation; the overall negative tone; and the accreditation that should read “New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation - all of which would suggest that this is less-than-official signage.
Its removal (noticed 04/04/2019) might support this view.
Regarding “The Tombs” – A Mausoleum for the Living. Both buildings are listed in the "AIA (American Institute of Architects) Guide to New York City, Fifth Edition".
Categories. • Architecture • Law Enforcement •
Credits. This page was last revised on April 10, 2019. This page originally submitted on March 10, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 81 times since then. Last updated on April 4, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on March 10, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.