Yuma Territorial Prison. Actually, it hasn't been a prison for many years, but is now part of the Arizona State Parks system.
The prison first accepted prisoners on July 1, 1876 and for the next 33 years 3069 prisoners (including 29 women) were held at this location. The prison ceased to be a prison on September 15, 1909 when the last prisoners were transferred to a facility at Florence, Arizona.
The facility was neglected in the years to follow and much of the original facility was either altered to create a new bridge (to cross the Colorado River), or structures and equipment were vandalized or stolen, and the facility fell into disrepair.
Fortunately, a model is on exhibit to help visitors visualize what the prison looked like in use.
An excerpt from the Arizona State Parks website:
From the date of closure, the prison’s facilities have been occupied and used by various groups. After Yuma High School burned, the High School Board rented four structures and used them from 1910 until 1914. The school athletic teams became known as “The Criminals”. The County Hospital utilized the facilities from 1914 until 1923. In 1924, the Southern Pacific Railroad demolished the western one-third of Prison Hill to make way for the new tracks. The Veterans of Foreign Wars leased the guard’s quarters in 1931 and used it as their clubhouse until 1960. Hobos, riding the trains in the 1920’s and 1930’s, stayed in the cells, and homeless families during the Great Depression lived in the cells.
The museum details the first day of a new prisoner's life at the prison. Some of those details included being photographed for their "mug" shot. The prison used a mirror placed at an angle to the prisoner so that a frontal and profile could be taken with the same photograph. Of course, Karen and I had to take the opportunity to see what we'd look like as prisoners in the late 1800s.
|Courtesy: AZ State Parks website|
Unruly prisoners, or those who broke the prison rules, were sent to the "dark cell". This was a single cell carved into the rocky hillside which housed up to 14 prisoners at one time. There was no toilet, only a grate on the floor. Prisoners were fed bread and water once a day while inside. They were chained to the wall or a point in the center of the floor. Punishment usually ran from a few days to a week or two, but one man actually spent 120 days in the dark cell.
Ocean to Ocean Highway Bridge" was completed in 1915. At first, I'm thinking ocean to ocean? Then I learned that before the completion of this single-lane bridge it was necessary for vehicular traffic to divert 1200 miles to cross the Colorado River. This route followed the Old Spanish Trail which ran from St. Augustine, FL to Los Angeles, CA. The creation of the bridge and the bridge used by the railroad caused part of the Yuma Territorial Prison to be destroyed.
Thanks for stopping by to take a look!