The copper mine in East Granby Connecticut has the distinction as the first commercial mine of the British Colonies. The existence of green copper ore was found in 1705 and a mine was opened. But after 40 years operation the mine was no longer financially viable, with abandonment in the 1750’s.
The Connecticut General Assembly believed the deeply excavated underground tunnels would be effective for confining serious criminals. This was an alternative to “infamous punishments” used at that time. Old Newgate Prison was named after the notorious Newgate Prison of London England. A neighbor to the mine, was persuaded by The Colonial Legislature to be the prison warden in 1773.
The first prisoner John Hinton arrived in December 1773, escaping 18 days later. There were additional prison escapes over its operation. After fifty-four years prison operation was found costly and inhumane with closure in 1827. Inmates were transferred to other facilities.
After that point it was reopened as a mine operating for 30 years. At the start of the 20th century the site’s ‘final life’ became a tourist attraction. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971 with ownership by the state as a museum.
Prison yard walls surrounding the prison are 12’ high, but prison buildings lie in ruin. Visitors may examine ruins and underground caverns on self guided tours. Stairs lead to underground passages with air temperatures in low 50’s and tight quarters. One can sense why the prison was found inhumane.
The 1790 prison guardhouse houses historical exhibits and murals, with a small gift shop for souvenirs. Picnicking is permitted on museum grounds. Museum and grounds were closed for restoration and now ready for visitation.
Old Newgate Prison address is 115 Newgate Road, East Granby, CT. It is annually open Memorial Day Weekend to October.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Adult admission is $5 with reduced rates for seniors, students, and children.
A ‘bird’s eye view’ of Old Newgate Prison can be seen from nearby Peak Mountain. The 18th century home of prison warden John Viets (Viets Tavern) is across the street from the prison.
East Granby, a town of 5,148 celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008. It is 22 miles south west of Springfield MA and 18 miles north of Hartford CT. Hartford is the capitol of Connecticut with a population of 124,775. Due to the large number of insurance company headquarters it is known as the “Insurance Capital of the World”.
Old Newgate Prison is a 5 hour drive of 313 miles from Rochester NY. Drive I-90 thruway east past Albany into Massachusetts exiting route 220 driving south. Drive east on route 20, then 1 mile north on Newgate Road to Old Newgate Prison.
Here’s a review of Old Newgate Prison
“This prison is a piece of history like I’ve never seen before. Well worth the trip, just be sure to go on a warm day cause it gets cool underground.”