BUILDING THE PRISON ( excerpts )
Built in 1828 as the third prison in New York State, Sing Sing Prison rose from the rocky shores of the Hudson River. . . .
The first prison in New York, called Newgate, was built in 1797 . . . in Greenwich Village. . . near the present-day Christopher Street, also on the shores of the Hudson River. . . .
In 1816, a second prison called Auburn State Prison. . . .The Auburn system implemented separate confinement at night and perpetual silence during the day. The prisoners worked in shops during the day and spent the nights in total darkness.
By 1824 . . . It became evident that a new prison would have to be built.
A legislative committee requested Capt. Elam Lynds, the warden of Auburn prison, to assist in planning, choosing the site, and constructing a new prison. . . . He and the commission selected the Silver Mine Farm at Mount Pleasant near the village of Sing Sing.
The name Sing Sing was derived from the Native American words Sint Sinks (a local tribe), which is a variation of the term Ossine Ossine, meaning "stone upon stone."
This site, 30 miles north of New York City, offered a quarry that would provide stone for the construction of the prison. . . with the use of inmate labor . . . at little cost to the state.
That March, in 1825, the commission appropriated $20,100 for the purchase of the 130-acre site. Lynds . . . hired architect John Carpenter to draw plans for the new prison, using Auburn's north wing as a model.
[Lynds] selected 100 of his prisoners, loaded them onto barges, and headed toward the Hudson River on the Erie Canal. The prisoners were transferred to freight steamers and sailed down the Hudson River to Sing Sing.
They arrived at the site on May 14. . . . On the first day, a temporary barracks, a cookhouse, blacksmith, and various shops were erected.
By 1826, 60 of the 800 proposed cells were completed . . . By the summer of 1827, 158 men were quarrying stone and working construction.
As the quality of the stone on site was found to be inferior, the work progressed slowly and the building was finally completed in October 1828.
The completed cellblock measured 476 feet long by 44 feet wide and was four tiers high. Each cell was seven feet deep, three feet three inches wide, and six feet seven inches high.