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The Old Essex County Jail Complex

- Peter - Thursday, May 21st, 2009 : goo

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image 33292
The Newark Street Jail was built in . Renamed the Essex County Jail Complex when several
additional structures were constructed, it remains 's oldest
standing municipal building.

image 33293
This is what it loos like today, almost 175 years later

image 33294
The undergrowth has been thriving in the recent warm springtime weather, and the outer yards are
hard to navigate, between all the rotting waste and sharp objects scattered about

image 33295

image 33296

image 33297

image 33298
Perhaps the structure decayed long ago or perhaps it was removed, but this is right
outside in the open air

image 33299

image 33300

image 33301

image 33302
From the overgrown western yard, a passage leads towards the front of the jail, skirting the giant
stone wall just a few feet away

image 33303
Although now sealed from the outside, a look behind the wall reveals what appears to have been a main
(and very secure) gate

image 33304
The entrance to the main cellblock

image 33305
Let's step inside...

image 33306

image 33307
A tier of cells three levels tall

image 33308

image 33309
Around the corner, they're four levels tall

image 33310

image 33311

image 33312

image 33313

image 33314

image 33315
The cells are very tiny

image 33316

image 33317
The cell-door opening mechanism

image 33318
I saw precious few overhead lights or lamps. I'd imagine that this structure was largely naturally-lit
for most of its life. It certainly is now, thanks to the huge, looming windows

image 33319

image 33320
One of the windows has fallen in in an adjacent cell-block

image 33321

image 33322

image 33323

image 33324
Around back is some fencing and two dilapidated structures. It's almost too overgrown and crumbling to make
out the footprint of the original complex, or tell which area is which from the outside of the building.
Spotting this smokestack in the historical photo (at top), helps a little with orientation.

image 33325
This appears to be a boiler in what might have been a mechanical/utility building. It is separate from
the rest of the jail and seems to be laid-out quite differently from the main jail building, although
all of its windows are covered with bars, too

image 33326
The second floor of this mechanical building burned not too long ago and collapsed

image 33327

image 33328
You can make out one of the cell-blocks through the shaded windows, which aren't nearly as overgrown

image 33329
This is where the mechanical building and the main outer wall meet

image 33330
This is Shaun, who I nearly startled to death when I inadvertently approached him from behind while
he was squatting in a corner smoking. Hoisting his bucket of water and bottle of dish-soap, he explained
that this was the only safe, accessible place in that he can go to have a bath and a smoke in
private. Having just smoked a dusted cigarette, he engaged me in the most lurid, abstract conversation I've
ever had with another human. His brief tale was mind-bending, wondrous, terrifying and bridged
all conventions of time and space. The littering the side-yard tell further tales.

image 33331
This major wing, right up at the front of the complex, was apparently built in 1890

image 33332
The burned-out mechanical structure from outside, street-level

image 33333

image 33334

image 33335

image 33336
The now weaves by next door in what used to be the in the
jail's heyday

image 33337

image 33338
A structure situated a ways behind the main complex, this building appears to have been non-correctional,
perhaps offices or housing

image 33339

, , , ...

This article has been viewed 43830 times in the last 7 years

anon ( awesome post!

Violet: 21st May 2009 - 03:37 GMT

These are beautifully haunting photos. Thank you so much for posting them here.

Sanzay: 21st May 2009 - 04:15 GMT

Wow! Looks like a theme for the good action game. So depressive and fascinating at the same time. The blend of , and documentary. Great article!

Victoria: 21st May 2009 - 08:05 GMT

Wow these are beautiful. Is it actually that easy to enter or is it difficult?

adam: 21st May 2009 - 18:39 GMT

great photos dude.. really gettin out there on your lunchbreaks huh? :)

Sean Hopkins: 21st May 2009 - 19:30 GMT

Instantaneously my favorite post of yours Peter. AWESOME. Now I'm itchin' to get out there!!

Peter: 21st May 2009 - 20:39 GMT

a: hahaha, not quite a lunch-time spot... i came out of there covered with dust and smelling like a dump, but definitely an on-the-way-home adventure ;)

s: thanks man... yeah, id like to go back, too. i could only get so far into it before the sky got overcast and it got dark inside... only got to see about 25% of the place and snap some quick-n-dirty photos. plus, not the sort of place where you want to explore the deepest crannies (think the basement dungeons) alone.

ntatap: 21st May 2009 - 21:07 GMT

Peter, great post!!! do you know how long ago this place was shut down?

Peter: 21st May 2009 - 21:53 GMT

1970, when the new essex county jail was completed. oddly, this jail has been on the national register of historic places since 1991, but nothing at all is being done aside from letting it slowly crumble and be reclaimed by nature (until it falls completely and can be razed for something undoubtedly more profitable, if the adjacent condos and student-housing is any indication).

Alito: 22nd May 2009 - 06:49 GMT

I heard that Frank Sinatra was once held captive in this jail for a petty offense.

Alex Sagrista: 13th Jun 2009 - 22:24 GMT

really good pictures great job hope to see somemore peter

Marielos : 17th Jul 2009 - 01:12 GMT

Dear Peter! This is one of the most facinating sites that I have found. What motivated you to go in and take these amazing pictures.

Peter: 17th Jul 2009 - 20:54 GMT

i walked past it and thought it looked cool...? i like dystopic decay :)

Jailbird: 18th Jul 2009 - 03:41 GMT

The cell door opening mechanism looks really cool. Nice shot.

Marielos : 18th Jul 2009 - 15:27 GMT

Peter: I am someone who has worked in Newark (University Heights) for the past 8 years. I am a nurse by training but for a long time has been in love with this site. I see so much potential. I have been meeting with the residents of University Heights and are planning to undertake some efforts to save this site. I have been lucky that my mother is a visionary like myself and she already has contacted some of her friends who are architects and have worked in prison design. I am also going to have a meeting with Dr. Clement Price who is a Newark resident and a historian. I am also in plans to speak with a professor at NJIT school of architecture. Thank you for your pictures, they will make part of history.

anon ( 23rd Jul 2009 - 15:52 GMT

Thanks so much for posting, not sure how much longer this will be here. Six months ago there were a bobcat in the front administrative building. Great photos, thanks for sharing

anon ( 25th Jul 2009 - 03:38 GMT

Did Shawn hit you up for a few bucks after rambling on and giggling?

ryan: amazing photos i want to check this place out.

Hopkins: I keep coming back to this one. I love it.

Nita: 30th Aug 2009 - 22:28 GMT

Thank you for letting everyone know that there's more to Newark than just the shooting and the gangs.There are a lot of us out here that are so unaware of the history of Newark. The cty of Newark is a historical venue in itself. We need more folks such as yourself to inform us of this great city's past.I don't know what led me to this site but I'm glad that I visited it. Thank you again.

Buzzy: 10th Sep 2009 - 01:42 GMT

Great Pix. You done a super job getting them.
Did anyone ever give you any problems about being there?
Like the local fuzz and such?

NICKEISHA: 22nd Oct 2009 - 03:17 GMT


Blanca: 11th Nov 2009 - 19:03 GMT

Here's an interesting article which I think is about this jail:

Steve: 26th Nov 2009 - 07:10 GMT

I was lucky enough to actually see the old jail upclose it is incrdible!!!

southward973: 6th Feb 2010 - 09:42 GMT

Great pictures of the old jail! I used to passs it daily newark has a great history! I also heard that malcom x was once locked up there

Neal: 22nd Feb 2010 - 13:12 GMT

Nice photos, I'm into photographing old buildings and my sister lives in that are (I'm in Rhode Island), I'm going to try to go here on my next visit.

CartLegger: 23rd Feb 2010 - 01:51 GMT

ummmm...there are lots better abandoned places to go, man. this place is creepy AND people live here. They dont take kindly to visitors. There are lots more places to explore In RI. take your risks closer to home.

one: 24th Feb 2010 - 21:40 GMT

wow i was in there doing time it dont look loike it

one: 24th Feb 2010 - 21:40 GMT

wow i was in there doing time it dont look loike it

one: 24th Feb 2010 - 21:44 GMT

one aka ice i was therr in 2003 how did it get so like that i did 14months in sat 5 cell block 23 ,, 1998 in and out of this jail ....this place was run by us inmate,,, this place is hunted

anon ( 7th May 2010 - 05:43 GMT

Hey where exactly is this building located?

Shadaim: Very very interesting......

Zaki Rizvi: 27th May 2010 - 07:32 GMT

Hi Folks
I actually entered this jail with my room mate Chris while we were freshmans at NJIT (a university very close to this haunted jail). I remember back in 1992 we cut the fence and entered at midnight and found various interesting stuff (like an old register, which had names of all the convicts), some mechanical tools and bulbs. It was an amazing experience. I remember it was very spooky inside and I still remember seeing old mugs from the 1900's and it appeared people just left that place very quickly leaving all their stuff behind. The jails had very narrow entrances and it was incredibly stuffy inside.

Christopher: 27th May 2010 - 14:51 GMT

Thanks for the link Zaki! Yeah, this brings back memories...We lived in Redwood Hall, just across the street from this site. A professor took a group of architecture students to the jail, we squeezed right through a chained gate. We didn't explore very deeply, since we were there to take in and appreciate the buildings. I was in there several more times while at NJIT. I spent one long evening salvaging electronic parts from joker-poker machines that were in a big cage. I still have "play credit" and "discard" buttons that operate garage doors in our home. Those machines must have been evidence confiscated from a gambling den. There was one room that hed been cleaned up and nicely furnished by a squatter, but we never met 'em. evidence of drug use was everywhere. I'm surprized that this place wasn't bulldozed already. Even back in '92, this place was falling apart. I can't imagine this place being saved. It's more old than historic. Good times.

Tom: 1st Jun 2010 - 22:35 GMT

Funny seeing the jail in the day light... Chris always used to like going in there at night and with the crack addicts in there it got pretty interesting.

richard abney: 15th Jul 2010 - 00:58 GMT

very awsome buldin it looks creepy i saw the episode when taps wss thier very looks lie it would be a fun place to investagate.

Bill: 23rd Jul 2010 - 02:24 GMT

Excellent pictures of this historic place. Hope that these pics help save some of the original John Haviland buildings and perhaps one wing. Not the whole site though. An aerial diagram / footprint of the complex would be great to understand the evolution. Many thanks.

leon a. amos: 9th Sep 2010 - 18:16 GMT

i was there before 1970 call me 347-416 7169 tell u what u need to know

katie: 23rd Oct 2010 - 01:12 GMT

if any one know the address of this place. i would like to know. email me at

mblindsay: 29th Oct 2010 - 21:59 GMT

Hi Peter. I actually did my undergraduate thesis in architecture on this building a few years ago. An adaptive reuse project reprogramming and designing new spaces around parts of the existing structure. Pretty interesting place. I visited twice and on one occasion ran across Michael, undoubtedly in a similar situation to Shaun. I have some more information -- historical documents, articles, and a drawings that I made with attempted accuracy -- if you're interested. Let me know.

phaviland908: 5th Nov 2010 - 08:56 GMT

hi peter i really like the pic's im from louisiana. and its actually my great ancesters that was the architect of that prison john haviland. i wish before its no longer there i get to see it. and i would love for my kids to see it cause its part of there history and minds. so thanks peter on such s beautiful job.

Mrs. Ali Hub : 16th Dec 2010 - 19:40 GMT

Born and raised in Newark, NJ...The first time I saw this building I didn't know what it was until my husband told me. We weren't as optimistic of entering in the space but we did drive around the outer perimeter & he tried to bring me back into history as much as possible by describing what the inside beneath all of the trees and debris was like. Being a Newarker I appreciate the additional history lesson as this really brings all that my husband explained to life in picture form. Thank you again.

Laurie: 1st Feb 2011 - 22:50 GMT

My dad worked at the old jail until it was closed and then at the current jail. He always said the layout of the old jail was superior as an officer could see better and monitor the inmates more efficiently. Thank you for posting this bit of family history. It really is a shame that no one is trying to preserve this site.

Rachael: 17th Mar 2011 - 12:04 GMT

is it true that a man set himself on fire while he was an inmate in this jail.?

Matt: 26th Mar 2011 - 23:39 GMT

Wow. Thank you for posting these beautiful pictures. That seems like such an interesting adventure.

Rob: 31st Mar 2011 - 20:46 GMT

I work in that area and pass by the place all the time, but you would never know what's inside. Pretty cool, nice pictures. I'd like to see them save the place for historic reasons.

Rev. Oz: 28th Sep 2011 - 07:50 GMT

I been thru A LOT of these kind of places as a hobby over the last 20 years, and I will tell you that I have never been in a creepier place,. As the earlier writer stated, MANY people live their or use the buildings (and the catacombs beneath) to shoot up, smoke crack and theres even whores working out of there. And the lie motionless under the garbage and blankets inside the cells till your literally 2 feet from them. It is a very dangerous place. PLUS if the NJIT Security Pricks catch you in there, YOU WILL be going to jail, I promise. Urban exploration is cool, but this is a super dangerous, WELL INHABITED place. You feel like your being watched at all times...cause you are. Enter at your own risk. And I'm serious about the rent-a cops. CHEERS

David Stroebel: 30th Nov 2011 - 17:37 GMT

Seeking old immate records from this prison for a Thomas Hauser when entered here in 1890. Would appreciate any assistance in locating them. I have not contacted any agency as of yet to inquire. Would like to know why my relative was imprisoned.

Dave Stroebel
Ocean, NJ
davidstroebel @ yahoo dot com

Bobby g: 11th Jan 2012 - 07:11 GMT

Ive been their at night..I'm an experienced urben explorer and it is an extremely creepy and dangerous visit... As I approached the rear of the building I Saw a man off to the distance and another figure in a window... I suggest if you are going to visit go souring the day nd face legal issues...better then being killed over a doller bill by a junkie bc ur body will neer be recovered

anon ( 19th Feb 2012 - 16:02 GMT

fucking cool

BEAR: 19th Feb 2012 - 16:04 GMT

yo this is awesome my man..all these years of living on that crummy city n I never knew it existed lolol

HatePain666: 25th Jun 2012 - 16:25 GMT

Did you see 'REVS' chain in there? Probably not, because I snatched it HA HA HA!!!!!

anon ( 24th Jul 2012 - 18:42 GMT

Please would you give us permission to publish two or three pictures in an article on this subject, in a Hispanic newspaper. I appreciate your attention to this request. Thank you very much.
Juan Carlos Fernandez, Editor - El Especial

Danni: 8th Apr 2013 - 17:40 GMT

What's interesting is that I live about 2 blocks away from this place and in the 18 years that I've lived in Newark, I never knew what the hell that was. It's great to know know that I've been living not too far from the old county jail. Hey, you learn something new everyday. :)

Petey Pete: 27th Feb 2015 - 17:22 GMT

It was a great place to work with legendary great men True Heroes Sgt Gerald Carey Sgt Peter DiPetta Sgt Edward Pringle Officers Ronald Roudesz, David Cannon jr.Rodney Bottone Thomas Guida.

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