NYCHS Virtual Tour of Harlem Prison at Harlem Court:House

Image left shows some records remaining to be rescued in an attic-like room reachable only by ladder.

Prior to the building restoration, birds once had free access through a broken window. Now no longer visited by birds, the room still evidences their having made much use of it during pre-restoration years.

That poses a deterrent to attempting entry without head-to-toe protective gear. Without stepping into the room, Gerald Schultz took the photo standing backwards on a ladder in the attic access opening in the ceiling in the room below.

Since restoration of the courthouse part of the building, former staffers of agencies involved in the activities there have rescued old ledgers and papers they found on visits to the unrestored ex-jail and living quarters section. These they passed along to current staffers who carefully safeguard them and, as carefully, show them to visitors researching the history of the ex-jail, hoping thereby to promote interest in rescuing the records in the ex-"bird sanctuary" attic.

NYCHS has joined them in this effort, reaching out to governmental archivists. Although NYCHS succeeded in having a municipal archivist visit the attic and confirm the potential historical value of the records, post 9/11 budget constraints preclude undertaking such a major records rescue project for the time being.

Above left: Empty record shelves in unrestored section room not visited by birds.

Above right, a rescued record shows a list of items purchased including horse blankets. Also Nov. 24, 1908 and Oct. 28, 1908 receipts for goods purchased by "5th Dist. Prison."

Above left: April 1907 in-take ledger page for Harlem Prison inmates whose last names began with the letter "F." (To fit the web format width and because the webmaster has no information on the detainee case outcomes, names and addresses in the image have been digitally abridged, but only in the image, not the actual page.)

Above right: Dec. 20 and 21, 1909, inmate movement ledger page reporting transfer of convicted prisoners to serve their sentences at the Work House on Blackwell's Island and the transfer of detainees to the Tombs aka City Prison to await further proceedings. (Detainee first names have been blotted out digitally in the image -- but only in the image, not the actual page -- because the webmaster has no information on the outcomes in their cases.)

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Return to the access point on Page 4 of the virtual tour.


The above view is a scene originally captured on digital camera by free-lance photographer and retired NYC Correction Officer Gerald Schultz (212 222-9161) who reserves and retains all rights thereto. NYCHS appreciates his allowing the use of his photos in this web presentation.

The web page design and text are by NYCHS which reserves and retains all rights thereto. E-mail NYCHS at webmaster@

Note: The unrestored look of the ex-jail and former living quarters in upcoming images and virtual tour sequences constitutes no reflection upon the Civil Court, Harlem Community Justice Center and others active in the restored part of the courthouse structure.

The ex-jail and the former living quarters are not part of the restoration program. Those unrestored parts of the building are outside the mandate of those agencies.

However, to their and their staffs' credit, they demonstrate commendable civic interest in providing what information and assistance they can to researchers studying the history of the ex-jail and former living quarters.