Return to Raymond St. Jail: Part 2 of 2
Fort Greene Parkprison security booth
Fort Greene park monument to patriot POWs looks
down on Raymond St. Jail inmate exercise yard.
Note the urn on the monument top.
A perimeter officer's booth stands
at Willoughby St. and Ashland Pl.
Note the Fox movie sign.

Enlargements of certain sections in photos from retired CO Peter J. Ledwith's collection reveal interesting details. In the one above left, the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument towers over the jail yard. The 145-foot granite shaft, supporting a bronze urn, honors 11,000 Revolutionary War patriots who died on British prison ships in Wallabout Bay (now the Navy Yard). In the enlargement above right, the old Fox movie theatre sign can be seen in the distant sky. It almost appears attached to the roof of the perimeter officer's booth. By the way -- no color has been added to these images scanned from Ledwith's 4x5s that were originally B&Ws but turned brown-ish from aging.

[From Commissioner Anna M. Kross' 1956 Annual Report, Pages 35-39:]
History of Detention in Brooklyn (continued):
Raymond Street Jail Sidelights

Image of Raymond St. Jail scanned from photo on Page 36 of Commissioner Kross' 1956 annual report.
Since this [Mayor Robert F. Wagner's] administration took office, Raymond Street Jail, with a cell capacity of 465, has been consistently overcrowded. On Oct. 11, 1954, [it] was forced to accommodate a population of 848; in 1955. the highest census was 775; and in March, 1956, the census reached a high of 758.

Almost ten years have elapsed between the original planning of the new Brooklyn House of Detention for Men (which now replaces the Raymond Street Jail) and its final completion. The amount of space allotted for inmate housing did not take into account the constantly increasing number of arrests. As a result of this lack of foresight, the new institution in Brooklyn has a cell capacity of only 817, with no adequate provision for a predictable growth in inmate census.

Above: More of South 1's flats.
Below: Inmates get haircuts.

In its search for additional housing space, the department has repeatedly requested the use of the Sheriff's Jail adjacent to the Raymond Street Jail, which formerly housed civil prisoners and material witnesses, under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of the City of New York. This building has not been used by the Sheriff's office since January 3, 1954, and they have officially refused to release it for use by this department.

Brooklyn House of Detention for Men

Ever since 1900, Grand Juries of Kings County have been working for a new detention jail for Brooklyn. As a result of the many setbacks over the years, on November 15, 1938, the Kings County Grand Jurors Association, the Courts Committee of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities and twenty-three other leading civic, religious and welfare groups, representatives of local Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade, and women's groups held a large community meeting to renew the drive for the removal of the obsolete, Bastille-like, century-old Brooklyn City Prison, commonly known as the Raymond Street Jail.

Above: Civil Jail inmates.
Below: In the Civil Jail yard.

For many years Raymond Street Jail had been denounced by health authorities, grand juries, judges, penal commissions and penologists, as an incubator of vice and crime, long overdue for the wreckers.

In January, 1939, a citizens' group called the Committee of One Hundred was organized. Pressure was brought periodically by public meetings, publicity and editorial support throughout the borough to advance the building of the new jail. Saturday, April 22nd, and Sunday, April 23, 1939 were set aside by clergymen of all faiths as days for a borough-wide appeal in all houses of religious worship, for public support of the movement to obtain a new detention jail in Brooklyn.

If it were not for an aroused, informed and enlightened Public, we would not now have this modern $10,642,000 Brooklyn House of Detention for Men, which has been referred to as a scaled down version in design of the famed UN's glass fronted building, and which now proudly joins Brooklyn's skyline to add to this administration's long list of city-wide physical improvements.

Above: Civil Jail dismantling.
Below: 'Outside walk' in yard.

January 23, 1939
Henry R. Kinsey,* Chairman
  • George H. Trumpler, 1st Vice Chairman
  • Rev. Edward Lodge Curran, 2nd Vice Chairman
  • Ralph K. Jacobs,* 3rd Vice Chairman
  • Cary D. Waters,* 4th Vice Chairman
  • W. G. Creamer, Treasurer
  • George V. Anderson, Secretary
  • Rev. J. Henry Carpenter*
  • David T. Leahy*
  • Rabbi Samuel J. Levinson*
  • Benjamin H. Namm
  • Michael C. O'Brien
  • Charles Pratt*
* = Deceased

[From Commissioner Anna M. Kross' 1962 Annual Report, Pages 47-499:]
Branch Brooklyn House of Detention for Men

Deputy Warden-in-Command
149 Ashland Place, Brooklyn 1, New York
UL 8-2424

Staff: Custodial 128
xxx Civilian 34

RatedCapacity: 465
Census:Highest Daily 1,012
xxx Lowest Daily 539
xxx Average Daily 703

Above: 'Outside walk' 2d view.
Below: Inmate vans in yard.
Branch Brooklyn House of Detention for Men, commonly known as Raymond Street Jail, is 127 years old, making it the oldest institution of the New York City Department of Correction. It houses adult offenders for the borough of Brooklyn. The type inmate housed here ranges from traffic offender to homicide.

This ancient and outmoded jail was intended to be replaced by the new Brooklyn House of Detention for Men. However, the pressing need to house the increasing number of adolescents in detention precluded this move, and Branch Brooklyn House of Detention has continued to house the adult offenders.

Above: Inmates board vans.
Below: Visitors drive out.
The problem of overcrowding continues without let-up. With a rated capacity of 465 cells, this institution held an average daily inmate census of 703. Much as department would like to eliminate this condition overcrowding, a glance at the census figures versus capacity makes obvious the need for improvisation of double beds in most cells. On January 30, 1962, the institution had a peak census of 1,012 inmates. . . .

Civil Jail:
On January 9, 1961, the old civil jail situated on the corner of Willoughby Street and Ashland Place, with its entrance in the yard of the Branch Brooklyn House of Detention, was activated to become an added facility of this institution.

Above: Images' unnamed COs.
Below: More unnamed COs.
The civil jail had been released by the city sheriff's office, taken over by the Department of Correction and renovated by the latter's task force. The building was then used to house the institutional inmate help assigned here.

The building is composed of a dormitory on the top (3rd) floor, another dormitory on the middle (2nd) floor, and a pantry, dining room and recreation room on the lower (1st) floor. Two correction officers are required and assigned to operate this new facility. It has a capacity of 84 beds divided between the two upper floors.

With the reorganization of the traffic court procedure and rearrangement in the method of handling traffic offenders, a facility was required to handle these short term offenders whenever they were committed to the Department of Correction. The facility had to be one which would enable the department to keep these traffic offenders separated and processed differently from the usual type of prisoner. It was decided to use the old civil jail for this purpose.

On July 24, 1962, this building was vacated by its inmate help occupants and placed into operation as a traffic offender facility for short termers and adjourned adult cases. It operates primarily as a separate institution within Branch Brooklyn House of Detention.

Brooklyn City Hospital (sketch above) had its decisive impetus from a wagon accident near Brooklyn City Hall in 1839, the year the jail was built.

The victim's injuries were not fatal but the mayor who saw the accident realized his city had no facility for such cases. He sought to remedy that by starting up one, first on Adams Street.

This led to citizens having the legislature in 1844 issue a charter of incorporation for the hospital that took temporary quarters on now Hudson Ave. near Willoughby.

After much civic effort, a hospital building was erected on Raymond St. at DeKalb and opened in 1852. Its 5-story main building and two 3-story wings sat upon a small hill just up the block from the jail.

Little more than 111 years later the jail closed. Eventually, the health care facility now known as Brooklyn Hospital Center expanded onto the old jail site. On it now stands the center's 19-story Maynard Building, named for Dr. Edwin Post Maynard Jr., opened in 1976 and occupied by offices for doctors and hospital services.

Brooklyn Hospital Center represents historical linkages of five other healthcare institutions across the borough. They include St. Christopher's Hospital for Babies (merger 1923), Brooklyn Thoracic (merger 1957), Cumberland (limited affiliation 1963-82), Evangelical Deaconess (merger 1968), and Caledonian (merger 1982) Hospitals.

-- Webmaster
On September 10, 1962, an adolescent section was activated separately from the adult section. The adult section is on the 3rd floor and adolescents are kept on the 2nd floor. Each section is fed on the 1st floor but at different times, as is the case also with recreation time. . . .

Unquestionably, the handling of these traffic cases under the present system is a marked improvement over the old system wherein a traffic offender would not be differentiated from killers, rapists, burglars, etc.

A composite of detail sections from Image #15 in the series shows Commissioner Kross during an inspection with Deputy Warden in Command Jeremiah J. Donovan and Capt. Oskow, right.
A traffic offender now retains some dignity as a man and the bewilderment that formerly obsessed him seems to be absent now. The general morale appears to have risen considerably.

[Page 380 of Commissioner Kross' "Progress Through Crisis: 1954-1965" report reprinted from the "Daily News" of Sunday, July 21, 1963 an article from which the following excerpts below are taken:]
Raymond St. Dungeon Meets End

On July 14, 1789, the death knell was sounded for the infamous Bastille prison -- an event still celebrated by French people all over the world.

On July 20, 1963, another rotting prison, the Raymond St. Jail, officially went out of business -- a fact which will gladden the hearts of prisoners, jailers and reformers. . . .

The evacuation began at 8 A. M. yesterday and was over at 1 P. M. The majority of the prisoners were split up between four other city jails, with only a working party left behind to clean up the debris.

The Raymond St. Jail was built in 1838, and its most recent addition was completed century ago. . . .

Reformers described it as "a medieval dungeon. . . ."

Yesterday spelled the end of an era.

Good riddance.

To Part 1 of Return to Raymond Street Jail.

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