SAHARA Highlights: Prisons and Jails

by Jacqueline Spafford and Jeffrey Klee, SAHARA Co-Editors | Aug 06, 2018

This month we look at the architecture of incarceration, and again can see the breadth of interests and scope of travel of SAHARA contributors. This is a small selection of the images of jails, prisons, sanitoria, and detention centers in the SAHARA collection.

To see more, visit SAHARA: http://sahara.artstor.org/library/portals/SAHARA/rloginSAH.html 

To learn more about contributing to SAHARA, visit:http://www.sah.org/publications-and-research/sahara

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The doors to slave cells at Elmina Castle, Ghana. Elmina Castle was built ca 1482 under the Portuguese and was a hub of the West African slave trade. Photo by Louis Nelson, 2010.

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Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Detail of Grant St. entrance. Designed by H.H. Richardson, 1888. Photo by J.W. Taylor, ca. 1890s (photo from the Ryerson & Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago).

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Jail, Tin Cup, Colorado, ca 1880s. A site of seasonal mining until lode deposits were discovered in 1878; by 1880 the town had 1,495 residents, and by 1918 when the mines were exhausted it was virtually closed down. Photo by Dell Upton, ca. 1980.

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Calton Gaol at Governor’s House, Edinburgh, Scotland. Designed by Archibald Elliot, 1815-17.Photo by Hollyamber Kennedy, 2017.

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Bathurst Gaol, New South Wales, Australia. Designed by James Barnet and opened in 1888.Photo by Dell Upton, 1990.

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Kings County Jail (aka The Bastille), Hanford, California.The jail was built 1897-98, and used until 1964.Photo by Dell Upton, 2008.

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Robben Island Prison, Namibian political prisoners’ mass cell.The prison, off Cape Town, South Africa, was established in the 17th century to confine political prisoners; it later served as a military base and leper colony, and again as a prison from 1963 to 1996.Photo by Dell Upton, 1997.

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Interior of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland. The jail opened in 1796 (the wing pictured opened in 1861) and closed in 1929; it was restored in the 1960s. Photo by Lara Otis, 2007.

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Convict Mess Hall at Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbor, Australia.The prison was active 1839 through 1869, when it was converted to an industrial school and reformatory for girls; it also served as a shipbuilding yard from 1869 until its closure in 1992.Photo by Dell Upton, 2015.




Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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