York County, Pa.’s, old Chestnut Street jail: ‘York has a treasure in it’

The old York County, Pa., jail on Chestnut Street appears fortress-like on the outside, but the elements are at work on the inside, which probably never was that spiffy. The York, Pa., Daily Record/Sunday News photo shows artwork from prisoners still on its walls. (See additional photos below.) York County prisons have been in the news recently. York County could play host to even more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners. And York City is looking to renovate its lockup as part of its proposed conversion of its West King Street city hall into a city police station. The neighborhood has made it into the news, too. Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene has broken ground for its York City Campus. Other posts of interest: Old York County, Pa., jail on endangered list and Prison listing brings back food loaf memories and ‘There were only so many cells in that old stone prison.

Robert Cody lived in York for most of his life and played around the old Chestnut Street Jail.

It fascinated him then – and still does.

“It is one of the few old jails still standing that has a good history to it,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It would be a shame to loose it. York has a treasure in it.” …


Realtor Eric Gearhart stands near what he called the ‘hanging hook,’ where prisoners would have been hanged in the old York County Prison. A reconstructed display of the gallows can be seen at the Police Heritage Museum in York.

Among his youthful discoveries was a secret way into the jail.

But Robert the adventurer ranged beyond the old jail as a youth.

“We also use to hop the trains and ride underneath with a canteen full of water … ,” he wrote.

He and his friends hung out in the hobo city on the other side of the tracks.

York County moved its prisoners into a new jail on Concord Road in 1979, a building which has been enlarged several times since. The county has seen incarceration of prisoners for the Immigration and Naturalization Service as a revenue source.

Robert Cody sees the old Chestnut Street prison, now for sale, as an opportunity for some historical organization to capitalize on.


The old county prison on Chestnut Street in York has been declared an endangered historic site by city officials.

Other prison-related posts and photographs:

Wanted: ‘Inmates’ to fill old York County prison
If Boston can turn prison in hotel, York can …
York’s Chestnut Street fortress bad symbol of York’s past
For sale: 100-year-old fortress-like prison
Old York County jail on endangered list
Prison listing brings back food loaf memories
‘There were only so many cells in that old stone prison

hendrixprisonA drawing of Jimi Hendrix remains on the wall in the old York County prison.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Cops & courts, For photo fans, Local landmarks, Mail bag, Nostalgia & memories, People, Unsung/obscure sites. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to York County, Pa.’s, old Chestnut Street jail: ‘York has a treasure in it’

  1. Pingback: Chestnut Street Jail – A Photographic Oasis? | Preserving York

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  3. Pingback: Family of pregnant York County Prison inmate worries about her exposure to … | The Alief Post

  4. Pingback: Family of pregnant York County Prison inmate worries about her exposure to … | News from around the world

  5. Audrey Lerew says:

    York has lost far too many historical sites. It would be a tremendous loss if someone cannot restore this building,

  6. Vicki Becket says:

    My grandfather was a Warren of the prison on Chestnut St. For years I can’t believe no one has done anything with this. I know at one time they were gonna make it into a restaurant. But I believe their is something that can and should be done with this.

  7. laken says:

    I think they should turn the bottom half a restaurant
    Or food court Slash gift store and the upper floors a
    Museum and on Halloween turn it into a hunted house
    Walk through of the top floors and food court
    Slash gift store on first floor just my idea lol

  8. Tasha p. says:

    Leave it as it is, and rent it out for photographers and various artistic projects…maybe even hold events like concerts within 😉 there is so much beauty and art within those walls it would be sad to see it all destroyed.

  9. Cindy Carver says:

    Happen to stop by this building one day there was a real estate agent cleaning the place up a bit! It needs alot of work or did at the time. If I had a lot of money….. I would turn it into something cause is had alot of potential. The strangest part of our tour was the hole in the floor at the hanging hook since seemed to be a part of the Warden’s quarters. Would not have liked being the wife of the Warden!

  10. larry lentz says:

    i think they should do one of them tv shows on it and see if there is any ghosts are enities in the old place however i do think it should be preseved could be a great attraction of some sort

  11. Nader Dehesh, P.E. says:

    It should be converted into a manufacturing facility since York was known as the factory capital of the world. That is the legacy of York, PA.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Many of the old factories around here are being converted into apartments, so it would be against-the-grain to convert this old building back into a factory. There would be less costly buildings to work with as a place to make things. Warehousing, maybe? Still, you never know!/Jim

  12. rosalee says:

    My dad killed him self in there on February 14,1978 so I know he is still in there

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