Old York County Prison holds prison art, other artifacts of historical value

hendrixprisonThis drawing of Jimi Hendrix remained on the wall of the old York County, Pa., Prison on Chestnut Street several years ago. Will such art be preserved when the old prison is developed? Also of interest: Check out this art made by Golden Venture detainees in York County Prison.

The fiber optics company owned by members of the rock group Live are eyeing the old York County Prison as part of their growing investments in the City of York.

So far, Think Loud Development has done well in revamping endangered property, with the old Bi-Comp building as Exhibit A.

So maybe the old Chestnut Street Prison will attract a substantial investor for the first time since it closed in 1979.

oldThis photograph captured the old Chestnut Street Prison last week.

Which brings to mind what Think Loud or some other developer would do with the interesting, unusual and historic fixtures in the old lockup. For example, what will become of the old hanging hook, designed for the execution of prisoners?

Prison art is one of the remaining curiosities in the old prison. A few years ago, at least, the artwork of prisoners appeared on cell walls.

The creativity of those on death row and in other stages of confinement has caught the eye of the U.S. art community, as this essay in the Huffington Post indicates. York County has benefited from one example of prison art in recent years. When the Golden Venture detainees were lodged in the new York County Prison in the 1990s, they sculpted figures out of toilet paper and hair and other available material. Those figures are coveted around York County today.

Photographers on tours of the old Chestnut Street prison have captured two known pieces of prison art on the walls of cells. There might be more than those examples.

Now, these drawings might not qualify as prison art as it’s often defined.

But they provide a snapshot of another time, frozen on the walls of the old lockup.

They point to the need for any developer to be conscious of preserving artifacts of our past, part of a world never seen before by many York countians.

Developers should be sensitive as they go into the prison to convert it to whatever is next.

Members of the rock group Live undoubtedly would be sensitive to at least one piece of prison art on Chestnut Street.

An inmate drew rock-and-roll legend Jimi Hendrix on one cell wall.

chestnutstreetX00118_9Another example of prison art in a York County Prison cell.

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

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.

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