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North Caldwell Penitentiary, Essex County

Essex County Jail

Essex Jail Annex NJ -  First Pictures Sent in

Essex County Jail Annex - Pictures and Descriptions from a former employee

A short time ago I visited the abandoned Essex County Penitentiary in North Caldwell, New Jersey. It was designed by the Eastern State Penitentiary architect, John Haviland and was built in 1872/73. After having many additions built throughout the years it finally closed in 2003 when a new, state-of-the-art prison was built. It's currently being abated and many of the smaller buildings surrounding the prison have been demolished. The contents of much of the prison has been piled up on it's exterior walls and strewn about the property in piles. It appeared that a good deal of the original prison structure had been abandoned long before the new additions by the deplorable condition of the interior. All in all it was an amazing place to visit, although it was creepy, depressing and sorrowful, it reassured me that I NEVER want to spend any time for any reason in a facility so harsh and severe. One look at this dungeon should've scared criminals to the straight and narrow and living here for a protracted period of time is, for me, unimaginable.

I'll start this off with a century-old postcard of the original facility, followed by some exteriors taken from prison windows and a quick jump outside, as full exposure to take proper exterior shots would've brought unwanted attention.

The main entrance was in pretty good shape and it led to an entrance hall with visitor's rooms, recreation rooms, and some administrative offices

visitation area - visitors

visitation area - prisoners

Mess Hall

In the auditorium there were two large weight-lifting systems and thousands of discarded files including mug-shots and fingerprints.

The following shots are from the many administrative offices throughout the main complex, additions, wings, and outbuildings.

Some of the offices were abated, awaiting demolition.

A residential house on the prison property acted as another administrative office building.

Infirmary door lock

Now, we move to the 135 year old cellblock, long out of use before the prison formally closed.

How small is tiny?

We now come to the modern cellblocks that closed in 2003. Surprisingly, they're almost as small as the 1873 cells, and some even have double bunks.

The newer block had a decent bit of prisoner's artwork drawn inside on the walls.

Finally, a trip to solitary confinement was the most sobering part of the visit.

At the end of our journey, security chased us right away from the site and into the nearby woods, reminding us to stay away from places like this, whether open or abandoned.
Damn good advice.

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