Wethersfield Prison Blues – Additional Notes

Wethersfield Historical Society member John Oblak contributed the following additional notes.

Brenda Milkofsky [former WHS Director] gave a lecture a number of years ago on the opening of the prison. The 81 prisoners – men, women and children – were marched to Wethersfield from Old Newgate in Granby. The youngest was a lad of about eleven and the oldest, a man near 90.
 
The state-of-the-art prison was the Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, New York.  It was the modernity of these facilities that drew Alexis deTocqueville to Auburn and Wethersfield in 1831.
 
Wealth from maritime trade was near its end for Wethersfield. The prison was viewed as an economic development opportunity. The story of how Wethersfield lobbied and maneuvered politically to gain the prison, against other towns competing for it, would be a fascinating story.
 
The prison was an imposing structure of Portland [Connecticut] brownstone. It is the largest structure ever built in Wethersfield.
 
Buz Willard’s grandfather was one of the two wardens murdered by inmates. 
[The story of Buz’s branch of the Willard family is available on this website – “One Branch of the Josiah Willard Family of Wethersfield”.] 
 
The last, few remaining above-ground structures of the prison still existed when I came to Connecticut in the fall of 1966.
 
Frank Winiarski gave a lecture on the prison to the historical society about ten years ago. For archeologists, important parts of the structure still exist. The challenge is that they are buried under the parking lots. Portions of the prison, like solitary confinement, were below ground level. It was more economical to fill over them than to take them down.

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