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Database: Bridewell Prison

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By 1773, the prison population at the New Gaol was getting so large that the city began plans for a new prison. Bridewell was started in 1773. The building was finished in 1775 but before it saw much use the war happened, and the British started to fill it with American POWs.

Prison conditions were terrible. Imagine a budget hotel, then take away the budget. There was very little food, most of it bad. There were no window panes - just bars over openings in the walls. One prisoner wrote that in three winter months, the only fire he saw was in the lanterns on the street. This was before our two and a half centuries of global warming, so you can imagine how cold it was.

When the war ended, this building went back to its intended use - holding local criminals and debtors. I can only hope the new government eventually installed windows and started work on the catering.

The building was torn down in 1838 and the stones were used to build a new prison that went by the happy nickname of 'The Tombs' - which wasn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. It's been the pet nickname of every Manhattan jail since.

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